Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £80,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924, for a Contribution towards the Cost of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, including a Grant-in-Aid."—[Note: £40,000 has been voted on account.]
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
It is satisfactory that it has been possible to resume the discussion on this Vote. On the last occasion when it was being discussed we were diverted to a matter of domestic concern and the Debate was cast aside like a broken bone. I thought that was calculated to produce a bad impression in India. I know it has been fantastically misrepresented already, and it is, I think, desirable for many reasons that the Debate should be resumed to-day. We have therefore asked for a resumption, and I know the Under-Secretary is very glad to have the Debate taken up again. I think it is undesirable that when a question of first-rate constitutional importance has been taken in hand by the House of Commons it should, as it were, slip through its fingers and disappear. Further, there is a number of grievances to ventilate and points which I know many Members desire to put, and some further elucidation of the general progress of the reformed institutions in India is required. I should like to ask the Under-Secretary to give us a little more detailed information about the reduction in military expenditure. On that point his speech was not very clear, partly because he was dealing with points which were only partly decided. In subsequent questions he has, I think, made it clear that this year there will be 656 a reduction of between £3,000,000 and £3,500,000 as compared with the military expenditure last year. That, we are told, is a curtailment which has the approval of the Commander-in-Chief, who thinks the amount of reduction can be safely carried through without any serious risk.
The Under-Secretary in his speech covered a very wide field, and I did not wish to shorten it. Perhaps it is scarcely fair to ask him for more, but I should have been glad to have had a summary of the work of the Provincial Legislatures under the reformed conditions. I do not think they have made a bad start. They have had to meet the same financial stringency which besets us, but a good deal of excellent work has been done. In some of the provinces something has been done to tone down the sharp asperities of what is known as the diarchy system. In many provinces the Ministers for transferred and reserved services have been brought to work together. On the whole, the work of the Indian Legislative Assembly does not seem to have given a discreditable showing. Admit, if you like, that in the matter of £2,500,000 it has had its will overridden on a Budget of over £36,000,000; but, apart from that, a great deal of really valuable work has been done. It has carried through, I think, most of the recommendations of the League of Nations for improving labour conditions in India, which was needed, and it has solved one problem, that of racial distinctions in trials which had baffled Lord Ripon, and for the unsuccessful handling of which Lord Ripon has been put on a pedestal in the minds of good Indian patriots for forty years. What he failed to do has been done almost noiselessly. They have encouraged the Government to carry through great reductions in military expenditure, they have increased the revenue, and have done a great deal of valuable administrative work. That does not look like a bad beginning for the reformed institutions.
There is an unnatural combination between the Tory diehards and the Indian extremists to discredit the work of the reformers. I do not say there is any conscious co-operation, but the attack comes from both sides. I do not think that anyone could have expected that 657 these reformed institutions could start on a fair-weather voyage, beginning as they did in post-War conditions, amid all the restlessness of the after-War conditions with limitations of their financial powers, and with various other difficulties. On the whole, the wonder is that they have done so well. Their task, difficult as it was, was greatly prejudiced and compromised by the gross mishandling of our whole Eastern policy. That re-acted very seriously upon the chance of these reforms going through. I do not think that the statesmen who now form His Majesty's Government are primarily to blame for that. The real responsibility, I think, rests with the last Prime Minister but one. I should possibly exclude from this exculpation the present Foreign Secretary. Undoubtedly, that mishandling of our Eastern policy complicated the whole position in India, and the wonder is that the reformed institutions have done so well. For once, even at this stage, we were not hopelessly too late. Over and over again in late years it seems to me that we have missed chances and have had to do too late what might have been done far easier at an earlier stage. In connection with these Indian reforms, however, we had the advantage of not being hopelessly too late.
In the previous Debate it was suggested that there had been change or tendency to change on the part of the present Government. I do not think that it is doing any real service to suggest that. It was suggested that there was, as it were, in the present Government a veering away from the spirit of the reforms in the direction of absolutism or autocracy. In my view, the present Government is not free to make any such change, and I do not think that any countenance was given to that suggestion in the speech of the Under-Secretary. As a nation we are pledged up to the hilt. We are bound by the pledges of this House, by the declaration of the King Emperor and the words of the Act of Parliament accepted by all parties. These bind us irrevocably, and it is a mistake even to suggest that the possibility is open to us of going back upon our settled policy in promoting responsible government in India. The provisos and qualifications of that promise as to time and method are well known and well understood both in India and in England, and I do not think it should be 658 suggested that any Government that we can conceive of at the present time has any idea of departing from those pledges, either in the letter or in the spirit.
It was said in the last Debate that we ought to have pride in the great achievements of Englishmen in India. I agree, and surely one of our objects of pride ought to be that we have been able to transplant into an alien soil where, except in prehistoric times, there was no previous provision, an institution that we have worked up in the historic House of Commons. Not once nor twice, our own belief in self-government has guided us right, and our sense that self-government is a real pillar of Empire. With the recognition also of India's nationhood I believe that there will come in time something else, though this may seem fanciful to some hon. Members. It was only after Japan got Western institutions and seemed to come into touch with Western civilisation that we Westerners began to appreciate her contribution to civilisation, culture, and art, and I am inclined to think that, with the increasing development of nationality in India, there will be an increasing link between those both in Britain and in India who appreciate what India's contribution is towards culture, art, and civilization.
The hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) seemed to contemplate the eventual separation of India from this country. I think we need only say that that would be disastrous for both peoples. But if the reforms do break down, there is nothing in front of us except a cataclysm. It is from that standpoint that I am going to approach the question, which was put before us in the previous Debate, of the Viceroy's action in certifying the Salt Tax. The Under-Secretary said that on that question he had the clearest of courses and the simplest of answers. I do not think it is quite so simple and easy as he suggested. Few things, perhaps, are quite so simple and easy as all that. I do not in the least underrate the need of balancing the Budget. I agree with the policy which the present Government have adopted of borrowing large sums for capital expenditure in India. I was on the Financial Relations Commission in India, and it was borne in upon me what an immense field there was 659 for well-considered capital expenditure in many parts of India. Many of the provinces are crying out for railway development, hydro-electrical development and irrigation; and in some of the provinces, such as Burma, we have seen after years of effort only the scratching, with the little finger, of the mere surface of the material wealth there. It must, I should think, be heartbreaking to an engineer to think of the millions of units of electrical power which are running to waste in India at the present time. For all that, you want a vast capital expenditure, and undoubtedly the British connection enables that cheap contribution of capital which is required. On the other hand, I do not think that you ought to exaggerate the effect of the certification on the recent improvement in India's credit. I think the Under-Secretary recognises that I attach rather more weight to other causes which he seems likely to pass over. The improvement in tranquillity, the curtailment of expenditure, the increase of revenue, the improved crops, and the improved market conditions at home account to a very large extent for the recent improvement in India's credit. That does not leave very much for the mere process of certification, though some improvement may have resulted there-from.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Earl Winterton)
It was necessary to enable the Budget to be balanced.
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I suppose you required the improvement of India's credit in order to balance the Budget. That is the real point. I agree that the Salt Tax, if you take the income of the Bombay mill-hands, may not show a large percentage in the family burget, but, after all, the hole of the Indian population does not consist of mill-hands. They are a small fraction, and one has to remember the countless millions of the agricultural population, where the old heriditary standard of four annas a day has not entirely disappeared. It may have risen—of course it has—but you have vast tracts of Indian population where, amid the squalor and make-shift poverty of India, you have no margin whatever to allow for any tax which falls upon the necessities of life. If I am asked to accept the view that the certification of this tax, with all its histori- 660 cal unpopularity and all the objections to it, was absolutely essential in the interests of India, I find it exceedingly difficult to answer in the affirmative. When changes are made in India, the Government of India moves with a foot of lead. That may be necessary, considering the whole structure of the Government, but a little more rapidity or promptitude in carrying through last year's reduction, which we now know could safely be made, and the deficit would have disappeared. Is it quite clear that there was no alternative except this unpopular tax? There seems to have been a consultation during the confused meetings of the Assembly, and many other suggestions seem to have been made. I should have thought that the case for certification was a weak one, and that on grounds of political expediency it would have been well worth while avoiding the necessity of using this arbitrary, emergency power in the present case.
I find it extremely difficult to fit this particular case into the language of the Statute. The certification is legitimate where, in the opinion of the Viceroy, something is essential to the tranquility, safety, and interest of India. "Essential" is a fairly strong word. Improvement of credit has, I admit, undoubtedly resulted from the certification. But if you want to test it, what does it amount to? Did certification amount to a difference of one quarter per cent. in the interest of the last loan issued? How can you say that that is essential? It may be desirable. Then, having certified this act as essential, you bring it into operation at once because a state of emergency exists, and, if one asks what the state of emergency is, he is told that if this taxing Measure had not been passed into law the revenue would have been lost. That is the normal and natural consequence of not passing a taxing Measure. It seems to me a strain of language to call that a state of emergency. In fact, on the language of the Statute alone it does seem to me that it did not contemplate this class of case but referred to something else. It really seems to me a weak case for bringing out the steam hammer to crack a not very formidable nut.
I admit that the real problem is the limit of this power of certification. It is that problem which emerges. I am very anxious not to misrepresent the Under-Secretary, but I think his theory 661 was that, wherever the Government made a question a matter of confidence, and wherever, if it were beaten, it would resign, the Viceroy has the right to use the power of certification. Of course, it is common ground that it is a legal power. It is common ground that it is conferred by a recent Statute, and that it was meant to be used. It was not like the large, undefined and indefinite prerogative of the Crown as described in the law books, very far-reaching, but, in fact, inoperative; it was a definite power given by the Statute and meant to be used in a proper emergency. The only question is whether a proper emergency has arisen in this particular case. The Under-Secretary seems to suggest that you may use the process of certification freely for the ordinary purposes of administration—that you may use it, for instance, wherever in this House the Government would put on the Whips. That is, I think, a very large and wide extension of this power. Of course, the intentions of the framers of the Statute do not matter. What matters is the language which they have used. But I have heard both in India and in this country a great deal of discussion about this power of certification, and I have always understood that it was an emergency power left in the hands of the Viceroy either to deal with a real case of disorder where it was vitally necessary that the Viceroy should have whatever powers he thought necessary to cope with a real emergency, or that it was to be used in a first-class constitutional struggle where you get the kind of problem that Cromwell had in his dealing with his Parliament, where you had an irremovable executive faced with an unmanageable assembly having the power of the purse. I certainly never thought that it would be used for ordinary purposes of administration, and in this case I think it has been a use of a power which is not really justified by the circumstances of the case.
To that extent I agree with the criticism which has come from this side of the House, but I think I am now going to part company with my hon. Friends of the Labour party in the rest that I am going to say. I do not think anybody could complain if the House of Commons chooses to review this power. The same Statute which gives the Viceroy this emergency power makes the House of Commons the ultimate authority to review 662 its use. Therefore, if the House of Commons thinks it right to intervene, no one can complain. We may be conscious of our own limitations; we may be conscious that we are not very qualified to form a judgment. It is impossible, with no close touch with Indian opinion, to form a very good judgment. I suppose only the Government with its access to official documents is in a really satisfactory condition to form a judgment. It is impossible at this distance to see things in India as they really are. At the same time, the House of Commons has been entrusted with this power, and it is simply fulfilling a responsibility which the Statute places upon it.
My hon. Friends of the Labour party want to challenge a Division on this point. They think that there will be some moral consolation to the opponents of the Salt Tax in India if a minority—and I think it will be a small minority—records its vote against it. Sometimes challenged Divisions, as we have recently seen, produce results which are not anticipated, and I think that, unless it is necessary, it would be very unwise for the House of Commons to pronounce, unless it is compelled, on this matter. I think that the interpretation of a vote of the House of Commons could not help being that the majority of the House accepts what, I think, is the large extension of the power of certification contained in the speech of the Under-Secretary. I think it would seem again that the seal of the approval of the House of Commons had been set on the use of the power of certification in these cases. I am going to suggest to my hon. Friends that there is another way out of it, and that it is not necessary for the House of Commons to challenge this issue. It is not merely on those technical grounds I would make the suggestion. Our complaint against the Viceroy's action is that it is a strained use of a legal authority. I think that it would be unwise if the House of Commons were to fall into the same mistake.
There is no doubt about the legal power, but a vote on a matter of this kind is not like the ordinary vote given every day by opposition Members against the Government, marking our sense of disagreement. It is a vote of censure on the Viceroy. That you have the right to give in exceptional cases, but I think that it also is a reserve power which should 663 be used only with much caution, and should be used, in my view, only if there is a proved case of an abuse of a power and if there is no other remedy. I think that there is another remedy. We have had members of the Legislative Assembly appealing to the House of Commons asking them for redress of what they consider to be a grievance. My mind has been influenced very largely by words of the Viceroy to which I wish now to call attention. The Viceroy has twice repeated the following declaration. It was made first in the explanation of his motives, published in the "Gazette" in Delhi, on 19th March, 1923, and it appears in his dispatch to the Secretary of State. He says:Finally I wish to remind your Lordship that my action merely imposes an enhancement of the tax until the 31st March, 1924, when the matter must again come before the Legislature. It will then have had a year's experience of the operation of the tax and it will be in a position to determine whether in view of the condition of the country and having regard to our obligations to the Provinces it will vote for its retention.The words on which I wish to lay stress are "it will be in a position to determine." Having twice used that language in an official document it seems to me impossible for the Viceroy to certify this tax a second time. If he were to do so clearly the Legislative Assembly would not be in a position to determine. He, as I read the words, will leave the matter of the retention of the tax to the unfettered judgment of the Legislative Assembly. I think that that is the answer which the. House of Commons should make to the Legislative Assembly. It is not desirable or very much in consonance with the dignity of the Legislative Assembly, or with the spirit of the reforms, that we in this House should be the centre of discussion of that Assembly. If on the one side we are to convict Sir Malcolm Hailey of inconsistency and on the other side we are to attack the opinion of Sir Montague Webb, we should remember that those eminent gentlemen are not here to explain their words and perhaps to show that the interpretation placed on the language would scarcely bear the construction put upon them. I think that it would be a real disadvantage if we should rebuke the doings, proceedings and utterances of the Legislative Assembly here. 664 In this case the taxes are imposed for one year. They may be taken off the next. It is not a matter of life and death. The Viceroy has chosen, apparently for two reasons, apparently to balance the Budget and apparently because he thinks that the Legislative Assembly may, if it retains the Salt Tax, get reductions in the provincial contributions to the central Government, but as he has left that as a matter for decision—and I do not think that there is any possible denial of that—by the free judgment of the Legislative Assembly, and has divested himself in advance of his powers of certification, is it not far beter that the House of Commons should reserve its action and say that it is not called upon to pronounce on this particular point, and that it will leave to the Legislative Assembly the decision of the whole question?
§ Mr. TREVELYAN
Does the hon. Gentleman remember that on the last occasion I definitely asked the Government whether they would give a guarantee that if a new Indian Assembly took the same view as the present one Lord Reading would not certify again?
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I do not think that it was necessary to ask that question, because I think that the words are clear as they stand. Lord Reading is a great lawyer. He uses words with a precise meaning, and if he says that the Legislative Assembly in March, 1924, is to be in a position to determine, that means that it is to be in a position to determine, and I do not see what other meaning could be attached to the words. Therefore, I am content with Lord Reading's twice-repeated words, and if that is the case we may well leave it to the Legislative Assembly to make its own decisions, and if I am told, as I have been told, that the reform scheme is a failure and the Legislative Assembly is a sham and a mock Parliament, because of this certification, then I venture to say that if you look at the facts, and consider all the facts, the Legislative Assembly has the remedy in its own hands and the scheme of reform provides within its own scope the appropriate remedy.
§ Mr. HARRISON
I did not intend intervening in this discussion, but I have been asked by some of my Friends to say a few words. I do not propose to traverse all the subjects which were 665 raised in the illuminating speech of the Under-Secretary which occupied one hour and fifty-five minutes, but will confine myself to one or two points. There is no doubt that India has now somewhat quietened down. There is rather less revolutionary activity, but the real danger at present is that of public disorder. We have weakened our administration, preparing gradually to leave the administration of India in the hands of its own people, but in the long interregnum which is bound to intervene there is great danger of the country lapsing into complete anarchy. After all, if you want to have good officers you must pay them properly. The whole of our service, what we call the Civil Service, the Police, the Forestry Department and the Public Works, the whole range of our public services are not now paid sufficient. The result is that we cannot recruit the right kind of people. That is a matter which is very far-reaching, because at this moment of passing from the Government of India according to your own ideas, and leaving India to be governed according to Indian ideas, it is essential that we should have no intervening period of disorder.
At present we have almost complete disorder in the Punjab. The Hindoos and Mahommedans are fighting each other like cats and apart from the old religious differences we have dacoities and murders. There exists in the Punjab a fanatical Sikh movement known as the Barbar Akhali Jantra. Originally this arose from a puritan sentiment somewhat similar to the puritan movement among Mohammedans started by the Wahabis. These Sikh puritans have recently shown a revolutionary and anarchist spirit, and they are now engaged in fomenting disorder—terrorising the people by robbery and murder. Recently in two months there have been eight murders. In the recent financial reforms of India the Government, against the advice of the Inspector-General, reduced the police in the Punjab by 4,000 men. The Government are now vainly trying to recruit the men whom they foolishly allowed to go. The Under-Secretary said that there were 600 applicants for a few places in the police. This was by way of showing that the attractions of the Service were sufficient to get the right kind of people, but I am informed that one of the successful applicants was almost completely illite- 666 rate and made five palpable mistakes in three lines. There were 25,000 to 30,000 officers demobilised, and out of these I am informed that only 10 were ready to take posts in the police. There is a statue of Lord Lawrence at Lahore. He was one of our greatest Governor-Generals. It stands opposite the Cathedral in the European quarter. Some agitators from other parts of India came to Lahore and induced the Lahore municipality to pass a Resolution to remove that statue because they objected to the inscription. The inscription has an interesting history. When Mr. Robert Cust was a Commissioner under Lord Lawrence he had to quell a rebellion in Kangra, and in addressing the rebels of Kangra he used these words on 28th November, 1848:I have ruled this district for three years by the sole agency of the pen and if necessary I will rule it by the sword. God forbid that matters should come to that. Tell those who have joined the rebels to return to me as children who have committed a fault, return to their parents and that fault shall be forgiven to them.That is the origin of the phrase about the pen and the sword which is on Lord Lawrence's statue. In those days nobody can deny that we had to govern India from above, and this phrase was then placed on this great Viceroy's statue in India. If that statue is now removed in answer to clamour, the effect would be fatal to our prestige.
There are many gentlemen, probably, in this House and elsewhere who dislike the word "prestige" almost as much as I do, but I know of no better word to describe the exact meaning. Our prestige in India is a very valuable thing. When you have a few white men and many Indians, it is absolutely necessary to keep the prestige which comes from your character and your conduct, and anything which destroys that prestige must be carefully avoided. If the natives of India think that we will remove that statue of Lord Lawrence which stands in the European quarter in answer to that clamour. I can think of nothing more damaging to British prestige in India. To return to the Civil Service, the civil servants at present are immensely underpaid. We were told by the Under-Secretary of State that he would like to defer the consideration of revising their financial arrangements until the Report of the present Royal Commission. I think that would be far too late. It is 667 necessary to act now, or disorder in India will become greater than ever.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
It is extremely difficult to pick up the threads of a Debate which has been adjourned for so many days. When the Noble Lord in charge of Indian affairs in this House was explaining the various matters connected with India, what occurred to me was this, that while we had a fairly extensive explanation of things in India, we had not much of an explanation of affairs in England relating to India, and I would briefly draw the attention of the Noble Lord to the institution of the India Office itself. After the establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner, there has been still a certain amount of reluctance on the part of the India Office to transfer to the Office of the High Commissioner those functions which the High Commissioners of other Colonies are at the present moment fulfilling, and the incompleteness of this transfer is not merely a sentimental loss to the Indians, but it creates bad administration and unnecessary expenditure. The process of transferring these functions gradually is not a businesslike process. If you create a new business department, that department must function, in justice to itself and to the people, to its fullest extent at once. The slow process of gradual transference is duplicating expense as well as causing a certain amount of confusion.
The same remarks hold good with regard to some of the financial functions of the India Office in respect of making payments. The Government of India having firmly established the Imperial Bank, and the Imperial Bank having its branch here now equally well-established, the ordinary banking functions formerly carried out by the India Office are no longer required to be so carried out. It is merely a matter of diffidence on the part of the authorities here which is hampering the Bank from carrying on the banking and which is retaining a large amount of that work in the India Office. If the work is fairly divided, and if all the monetary functions of the Government of India, where there are payments to be made on behalf of the Government of India in England, are carried out by the Bank, if all the commercial functions of the High Commissioner are carried out 668 by the High Commissioner's Office, then the India Office will find its normal level, like the Colonial Office, in carrying out its political functions. I submit that point to the Noble Lord for his early and serious consideration, and attached to that consideration will come another piece of injustice which the people of India have felt, in a very small way, but there it is. I understand that the entire property belonging to the India Office has been obtained from moneys paid by India, whereas no such charge has been levied for the Colonial Office on the Colonies, and when the India Office falls back on its normal political functions, to be carried on for this country, as it is now alleged, then I think due compensation ought to be paid for the property that the India Office will take over from the Government of India completely under their own charge. In fact, if that had been done this year, the whole of the vexatious argument regarding the £2,500,000 for salt would not have arisen.
A few days ago we had the question of the loans, and on this question of the loans to be floated in this country, without meaning to be bitter or to bring in any national feeling, I want to draw the attention of the Committee to a fundamental, underlying principle. Large amounts of money are raised by loan for India simply after consultation with, and with the sanction of, British officials themselves. The people of India, as such, have practically no sanctioning of the financial affairs of the officers appointed by this country to rule India. These loans are assuming larger and larger proportions, and the people of India are completely innocent. Even the few Indians who are educated and who perhaps follow the activities of these loans being raised here to the extent of unfavourably commenting upon them, are innocent, but the masses of the people who are ultimately to be made responsible for paying them back are completely ignorant on the subject. These large loans are raised in their names, without their knowledge or sanction, and some day you expect them to pay the money back to you. When these masses become conscious and intelligent and say, "We have had nothing to do with these loans, we never asked you to raise them nor to spend them on us, and we never grant that you have spent these sums for our benefit," you will turn round and say that these 669 people do not observe the standard of honour.
There is no standard of honour. I think the India Office itself, in raising these loans must first observe the standard of honour, that is to say, must first get the sanction and the wish of the people to whom, some day, they will look to pay them back. Otherwise, I think those people will be perfectly right, some day, in saying, "We know nothing about these loans. Somebody came to our country, raised these loans in our name, and spent them on themselves, just as they pleased, and we cannot honourably or honestly be asked to repay these loans." It will create a very serious situation when the people of India do recover their consciousness, and in view of this, not from any political motives, but in view of these ordinary standards of honour in business matters, the Government of India must alter their methods of continually raising loans in Great Britain simply to spend the money here, there, or anywhere, rebuilding Delhi, or reconstructing large offices, or now houses for officers, and so on. There must be a limit and censure from the people if you expect the people to honour these loans as theirs.
There was something said about the future chances of commerce and industry. I wish to draw the attention of this Committee and of hon. Members, regardless of party, to this fact, that there is one phase of life which the public politicians in Great. Britain and India scarcely like to touch, but which brings the people of this country and the people of India into very intimate relationships. There may be troubles in the Punjab and a few riots in the streets of India, and you believe that that is endangering the lives of some Britishers, but I would point out that hon. Members sitting in this House are themselves quite unconsciously involved in activities which endanger the lives of many more Britishers than the few revolutionaries in the Punjab can ever do. I am drawing attention to the entire industrial activity which is being carried on in India, and which is being financed or controlled, not only from here, but even in India, along British methods. The Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State had occasion once or twice to tell us that the Trade Union Act is under consideration, that it is coming some time. He was good 670 enough to assure us that compensation when lives are lost—some 14 lives were lost in a coal mine, and some 12 lives were lost recently in a tinplate works, without compensation—is coming some day, but in the meantime I ask the Committee to give very serious consideration to this close relationship of the ordinary daily lives of the working-class people of Great Britain and the working-class people of India. That is the important point which we ought to study first, and nothing else.
I will give one example. We have recently heard a good deal in this House of trouble in Dundee. This House has tried to find many solutions and to appoint an arbitration board to find out how the life standard of the people of Dundee can be maintained so that their women and children can at least have daily food, if nothing else, and that they can somehow or other manage to have a decent house in which to live. This does not apply only to the workers of Dundee. It applies similarly to textile workers, to seamen, and colliers, and iron and steel workers, and people in the engineering trades. What is the position? In Bengal our British financial friends have raised 74 jute mills. They are quite welcome to do so. The Bengalis have a right to see these jute mills erected in their midst, and the financier has a perfect right to go anywhere and erect any factory, if the people there are simple enough to permit him to do so, but the real position is this. Only about four weeks ago I minutely worked out the figures, taking the published reports of 41 concerns in this jute industry, every one of which is controlled by British firms, many of them having their head offices even in London. I found that on a capital investment of £6,140,000 they earned, in the four years 1918, 1919, 1920, and 1921, £22,900,000 as dividends, and that those 41 jute mills had, besides their profits, set aside £19,000,000 as reserves.
The standard of wages in these jute mills never reached 5s. per week in the spinning department and never reached 10s. per week in the weaving department, and taking the Bengali output at only one-third—in reality, it is two-fifths—of that of the Scotch worker, the disparity of the wages is evident. Those dividends may benefit some people, but I appeal to all hon. and right hon. Members opposite whether they consider it fair to create 671 facilities by which this sort of broad daylight blacklegging of British labour should go on to the profit of profit-mongers in this country. I can quite realise that this great jute industry may have increased the wealth of a few Scottish families with a few dozen or a few hundred shares, but does it not appeal to Members on the other side of the House that that position alone means starvation for thousands of workers in Dundee and also for the workers of Bengal? Out of their low wages those people in Bengal cannot have education, medical assistance, or proper housing. The same with regard to the colliers. We discussed the other day here how to raise the minimum wages of the colliers. We were bewildered; we could not do so.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must connect this with the Government of India. I do not know whether he suggests that the Secretary of State for India can reform the conditions of which he speaks.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
I mean that the Government of India, having granted concessions to merchants, protecting them with their Armies and Navies, at the same time have failed to introduce trade union legislation, trade union activities, and the union standards, and so are responsible for this condition. I will give a more direct example. Take, for instance, the iron and steel industries here. The Government were bound, with regard to the giving of Indian orders, not to place orders for iron and steel materials where trade union wages were not paid. That condition automatically gets altered when the Government of India puts orders with firms who pay one-tenth or one-twentieth of the wages that are trade union wages in this country. There is another direct responsibility upon the Government of India. In India, the largest employer of labour, the biggest capitalist, is the Government of India, and they themselves started miserably low wages. They set a bad example, and have maintained it, and have carried on the whole system as a practice. I ask the Government of India to realise that, even if it does not matter to them, it does matter to hundreds of thousands of working-class people in this country that the standard of wages be not unequal, and I think it is most necessary and most important, in 672 justice to the Indian investors, as well as the British working classes, that a Committee of Investigation should be first appointed to find out the disparity of wages, bearing in mind even the disparity and output in the quality of goods.
There is another serious consideration. The Government of India was asked only last March by the people of India, at least for the sake of humanity and morality, to stop, in the new mining Act, 50,000 women with their infants going into the pits every day to work. The Government of India has got another direct responsibility in the matter. I do not wish to repeat the words which created so much stir a few days ago in respect of Scotland. But what does it all mean? Here are the figures from the Government of India's statistics of infantile mortality. We were told here a few days ago that if the infantile mortality goes up by 10 per thousand, then the responsibility is such that it can only be described in very unparliamentary language. Here are the infantile mortality figures for India—in the Northern Provinces, 216; Bengal, 185; Madras, 194; Punjab, 248; Bombay, 217; the Central Provinces, 227; Burmah, 220; the whole average of British India being 206, compared with 97 in Scotland, and 91 for the United Kingdom. You cannot attribute it to climatic conditions. You cannot shirk the responsibility for compelling people in factories and mines to work under western conditions, and live under 3,000 year old eastern conditions. There is a private and confidential report, which was printed and published for private circulation only by Captain E. D. Richards of the Calcutta Improvement Trust, in which it is stated that in certain wards the deaths of children up to 12 months for four years, 1916 to 1918, were never less than 575, and reached as high as 680.
These are not things which a responsible Government can merely pass over with the remark, "Well, these are Indian conditions. Food is cheap there, and people are accustomed to live on floors, and incur microbic diseases." They must have either an Eastern or a Western life, an agricultural peasant life or an industrial life; but we cannot compel human beings to do work of different conditions, and to live as they would live upon farms, where very little nervous or physical strain is required in their 673 daily life. This is the position, and I ask the Noble Lord to set aside all humbug about liberal reform. It is all cant; there is no soul in these reforms either for the people of India or Britain; it is only political tactics, to spread salt on the tails of a few Indian politicians. The real reforms are these. Let us have a Committee of Investigation to find out how the working classes in India are living, and how the conditions are responsible for want of education, want of sanitation and human dignity, and also responsible for starvation and unemployment in this country by the blacklegging of labour for large contracts.
The other topic discussed was the Salt Tax. I remember a series of pleas put forward by the Noble Lord. Of course, he was not responsible; he was telling us what the Viceroy told him. If we were to believe his whole series of pleas, and that it does not matter whether you double or treble the Salt Tax in India, then we have got to disbelieve a dozen British statesmen and Viceroys who have said horrible things about the cruelties of imposing the Salt Tax. I believe the Noble Lord, who now presides over the destinies of the Foreign Office, when he played the super-Viceroy of India, considered himself very happy that he found it possible to reduce that Salt Tax, and laid it down that it should be the marking-stone for the future of British policy to remove the Salt Tax as hastily as possible. Salt is not in the nature of raspberries and cream. No human being Mould take more salt than is necessary, and the Noble Lord has got in his own official record substantial statistics, worked out for over 50 years, to show that whenever the Salt Tax was high, and whenever the salt price was high, the consumption of salt per head went down low. You do not want us to believe that when salt is cheap people eat handfuls of it. Perhaps it is never cheap enough to enable people to have a sufficient quantity at any time, but when cheap they take as near the necessary quantity as possible, and when it becomes costly they have to abstain from it. That is the only conclusion, and I think the Noble Lord must have in his archives a report from one of the commissioners of Bombay—I believe Mr. Ackland—in which he, after due investigation, found that when the consumption of salt is curtailed it spreads the horrible scourge of leprosy in those 674 districts. It is not merely the price. There was a telegram in the "Daily Herald"—I do not know if it is Parliamentary to mention the "Daily Herald," but, perhaps, it was in the other papers—two or three days ago.
§ Mr. SAKLATVALA
Then I can mention the "Daily Herald." I read a telegram in the "Daily Herald" that there is another conflict in Bengal already. In putting additional taxation on salt, the Government of Bengal find it necessary to tighten the inspection against smuggling, I may say that Bengal almost entirely uses Cheshire salt, but fishermen, ignorant villagers who do not know what is the Salt Tax, or what is legislation, or what is the Viceroy, go round the coast line, and on the seaboard perhaps cure their fish by means of salt water. That is a contravention of the Salt Tax; they are smugglers, and are punished. All along the seaboard you have got thousands of inspectors who bully the poor villagers and make their lives miserable. People living on the seashore often innocently get salt water and boil a few mangolds, and they are charged immediately with having smuggled salt without paying duty on it. It is a daily occurrence, and when an hon. Member on these benches described the Salt Tax as the most hated tax in India—these are the factors which make it. It is not always a question of pounds, shillings and pence, but it interferes with their daily life and their freedom.
You created an innocent Legislative Assembly, and you want this House, by confirming the erratic action of the Viceroy, to tell the people of India that all the Members of the Legislative Assembly are brainless chaps who know nothing about the people and know nothing about salt, and that we here are the clever people who know everything about everything. That is the message which you want to send forth. You want to say to the Legislative Assembly, "It is not your job to know whether poor people are able to buy salt or not; we know much better here in Westminster. It is not for you to know whether the Salt Tax is good for you or bad for you. You represent your people, but that is nothing. When we take it in our heads to ride roughly over 675 you we shall do it, because we know everything under the sun and you people do not know anything about your own country." What is behind it all. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. C. Roberts) told us that the Indian extremists, of whom I am proud to be one, and the Conservative die-hards are sometimes akin. It may be so, because we both like to look at facts as facts, and do not wrap them up in diplomatic language. What is the position? The action of the Viceroy in going over the heads of the representatives of the people—in India they represent only a minority of the people and they are the creation of the Government itself—is wrong in principle, and, at any rate, it is a principle with which the House of Commons, an assembly which for hundreds of years has pretended to stand up for the rights of the taxpayers, should never associate iself, any more than with the idea that the dictation of the Crown is always superior to the wishes and intelligence of the people. Yet we are going to do this. Why?
I hope that Members of the Committee will not misunderstand me. I have no bitterness in my heart. I wish to see life as it stands. It is no use looking at the conditions of life that were prevalent yesterday. We have to look to the conditions of life of to-morrow. I agree with every hon. Member on this side of the House, that if it were possible to let the Viceroy obey the people of India, it should be done, but I doubt whether it is ever possible for any one country to dominate another country and to send out a Viceroy and to say, "Go there and obey the people of that country." Such a thing is impossible in its nature. I do not believe in political phraseology which is used for the sake of convenience—Dominion Home Rule, and this, and that. It may all look very well on paper. How can you expect a self-respecting community to take charge of its country's purse and affairs, and to say, "I will preserve this all, and manage this all, for the benefit of the people of Britain in the first instance, and for the benefit of the people of India in the second instance, if possible." Such a thing is unnatural and not to be expected.
It is no use our deceiving ourselves or deceiving others into the belief that the solution of the whole of this problem is 676 coming with Dominion Home Rule. You will perpetually send a Viceroy who will be asked to be the servant of the people of India and to carry out their wishes. It is impossible. There is one solution, and only one solution, for the future. Why not look at it like bold and brave people who are conscious of the future? There are many results in our present life and constitution and civilisation to be ashamed of. I ask the Committee to accept my statement without bias or prejudice. Not politicians should count, but humanity. If you once start a scheme by which the workers and peasants of India enjoy the same standard of life as the workers and peasants of Europe and of America, you will have abolished every need for sending out a Viceroy either with a mandate to obey the people of India or with a mandate to obey the people of Britain against the interests of the people of India. You are on the horns of a dilemma. When the day has come that the peasants and the working classes have established a uniform standard of life and political rights throughout the civilised world, the working-class international organisations will arrange our international life.
§ Sir PERCY NEWSON
The main criticism in this Debate has been directed to the action of the Governor-General in certifying the Measure for the Salt Duty. As to this, details are to be found in Lord Reading's dispatch, a copy of which is embodied in the White Paper circulated before this Debate. The Noble Lord, the Under-Secretary of State, also dealt very fully with this matter in his speech. I do not propose to belabour the point from the political aspect. I think that Lord Reading took the only action which he possibly could take, having regard to his trust. I should like to say a word or two in regard to the financial aspect of the matter. The necessity for India to balance her Budget has become very great. It is not unknown to Members of this House that very large loans will mature in the next few years. Between 1923 and 1928 no less than 43½ crores of War Bonds, raised at between 5½ and 6½ per cent., will mature for repayment. These bonds have to be paid off as they become due, and if we want to reduce the rate of interest the only way to do it is by re-establishing the credit of the Indian Government. Between the years 1926 and 1932 a further sum of 124 crores 677 of War Bonds will mature for repayment. The total is thus no less than 167 crores of rupees. If by re-establishing the credit of the Government we can borrow money at 1 or 1½ or even 2 per cent. less, we shall effect very great economies for the Indian Exchequer.
The first essential is that we should balance the Budget. It was very clearly shown by Lord Reading that the only way to do it was by imposition of the Salt Duty. It has been suggested by the Mover of the Amendment that there are other alternatives. If I remember rightly, he said, "Why do you not effect a surcharge on your Income Tax?" Need I say that taxation in India is already very pressing? I do not think that the hon. Member had it in his mind that the Income Tax and the Super-tax rise to a maximum of not less than 9s. 6d. in the £. In this country the taxes are 6s. and 4s. 6d., or 10s. 6d. in all. Therefore, in India we are already taxed to a maximum of 9s. 6d. in the £, against the 10s. 6d. of this country. In addition, trade and enterprise are handicapped by the Corporation Profits Tax. That tax in this country is now 6d. in the £. In India it remains at 1s. 3d. in the £. It is clear, therefore, that India is already paying quite as much as she can bear under the heading of Income Tax, Super-tax, and Corporation Profits Tax. In India we have to borrow very large sums of money, not only for the purposes of central Government but also for the purposes of various provincial Governments. We have to borrow large sums for railway purposes, and as the years roll on we shall have to borrow increasing amounts in that connection. Further, there are large port trust developments, and there are at all times very large sums to be borrowed in connection with municipal undertakings. If the credit of the Government of India as a whole is bad it is very much more difficult, if at all possible, to raise these sums.
I have already said that Income Tax and Super-tax are as high as we can bear. Taxes on imports are also as high as we can bear. These taxes have been raised during the last year or two, and directly you start putting taxes on imports you raise the cost of commodities to the workers. We have, further, certain export duties, imposed some years ago, which react on trade. It is inadvisable 678 to increase either those import or export duties. We have had also large increases in postal and telegraph rates, and the charges in that connection are to-day as high as the country can bear. In my humble opinion there was no alternative to the enhancing of the Salt Tax. I desire to congratulate Lord Reading and Sir Basil Blackett in having tackled this problem of India's credit so promptly after their arrival in India. Although India is taxed so heavily, we have to remember that we have there no poor relief, no compulsory education, no unemployment, and no sick benefit. I beg the House to think for one moment as to what will happen when these matters are tackled. It is certain that in the years to come we shall have to tackle the question of compulsory education, certainly of primary education. With a population such as there is in that country, no great imagination is needed to realise that it will be necessary to raise by taxation further enormous sums. We have the reform scheme to-day in operation. These reforms are very costly, and I have no doubt that with the progress of time we shall have to incur far heavier expenditure than hitherto. I was very pleased indeed to read the Report of the Inchcape Committee. I think that Lord Inchcape and the members of his Committee deserve the congratulations of all of us for having effected so speedily and so easily certain economies that they have recommended. I doubt very much whether it will be possible to effect all the economies. In any case, in budgeting for the future, we must wait until such time as the economies have actually been effected to see exactly what reduction we can bring about in expenditure.
Another matter to which I wish to refer is the pay and emoluments of the European civil servants in India. A Commission has been appointed under Lord Lee of Fareham to go out during the coming winter and to investigate thoroughly all these matters connected with the European services. Those of us who have returned from India after having been there for some time, and who know how the cost of living has increased for Euopreans of recent years, take it as certain that much will have to be done in the way of increasing the emoluments of the Europeans whom we send out there. Here is a further addition to the expenditure which India will 679 be called upon to meet in the course of the next few years. A point which I have not been able to understand is this. If the enhanced Salt Tax is so unpopular as hon. Members on the other side make out, how is it that it has been collected so easily since the enhancement was brought about? In my humble opinion, the Indian has seldom been better able to meet such a tax. Notwithstanding the remarks of the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala), with which I shall deal more specifically later, wages are good, and in most trades they are still rising. In textiles, to my own personal knowledge, the increase in wages within the last three years has been no less than 50 per cent.
§ Sir P. NEWSON
I shall come to that later on. The effect of the enhancement of this tax is really trivial. There is no other word to be used in regard to it. It must be remembered that food rates fell by 20 per cent. from October to December 1922, while between January 1922 and January 1923 the retail prices of wheat fell by something like 60 per cent. or 70 per cent. in important districts in the North of India. Prices of food generally have fallen considerably within the last few years, and it must be remembered that the ordinary Indian worker spends about half his income on food. I think the exact figure is 52 per cent. or 53 per cent., and when it is remembered that of this 50 per cent. nothing more than two-fifths of one per cent. is represented by this enhancement of the Salt Tax, then I think the case against the enhancement falls to the ground. These are the considerations which justify the selection of this particular tax, and as I have already said, I think the Government of India deserve congratulation rather than criticism, for their action. In regard to the question of alternative taxes, there is only one which occurs to me, which would be at all possible and I am quite sure that tax would not fit in with the ideas of the hon. Members who represent Dundee in this House. The only other tax of which I can think is a tax on raw jute. Raw jute is a monopoly of India, and so complete is the monopoly that it always struck me as extraordinary that the Indian Treasury officials have not taxed 680 it for export before to-day. I believe with the recurring increased expenditure which we shall have to face in coming years, which expenditure is going to be very great indeed, it may become necessary to institute scientific research into the possibilities of taxation and, should that occur, I will not be in the least surprised if the Government of India are forced to take some action in regard to the export of raw jute.
On every ground, financial and otherwise, the Viceroy did what in my opinion was the right thing in certifying the Salt Tax. Not only did he do the right thing, but he did the only thing possible, having regard to his trust. The tax, it will be remembered, was 2 rupees 8 annas per maund, as far back as 1916. Since then it had been reduced by about 50 per cent. to 1 rupee 4 annas per maund, so that we are merely going back to the position we were in seven years ago. I think that will be enough as far as the question of the Salt Tax is concerned, but I desire to touch on one or two matters of paramount importance to our Indian Empire. There is the question of the number of British troops, a reduction of which is suggested, and is, I believe, at this moment taking place on the recommendation of the Inchcape Committee. We have the word of the Commander-in-Chief, on which we know we can rely, that the number of the troops is not being reduced below the point of safety. I am quite prepared to accept his statement, but I would ask the Government to keep a careful eye upon this matter. In a country of 2,100 miles by 1,900 miles, with a population of 318,000,000, where railway communications are very poor, we may be incurring a very great risk in bringing about this reduction. I think the reduction is 112 men per battalion, which means we are reducing the number of our troops to something below 60,000, and when you think of a population of 318,000,000 in a country so extraordinarily wide in area, I think it will be agreed that we have about come to rock bottom.
I wish to put in a plea for the European services. Other Members on this side of the House, notably the hon. Member for Kennington (Mr. Harrison), have already referred to the necessity for helping the European civil servants in India. I would put in a special plea for the 681 uncovenanted men—not only for what is understood in India as the Indian Civil Service pure and simple the covenanted civilians, but also the men who go out to various Departments in India, and who are known in that country as uncovenanted civil servants. These men are very poorly remunerated, and I do not believe in the last 50 years, notwithstanding the increase in the cost of living, they have had an advance of 25 per cent. on the original scale. Speaking from my personal experience in the cities, in Calcutta, Bombay and elsewhere, house rent alone has more than doubled, and servants' wages have increased by at least 100 per cent., and, from the European point of view, costs have gone up greatly, and these uncovenanted servants find themselves in a position in which it is almost impossible for them to live. It is high time something was done for them. I hope the Commission which is about to sit under the chairmanship of Lord Lee of Fareham proposes to take their situation into account. I am not quite sure, but I understand that one of the terms of reference of the Commission is to deal with the men to whose case I have just called attention. I am sure the House would like to know' definitely whether the Commission is to deal both with the uncovenanted Civil Service, as we understand it in India, and with the superior covenanted service.
With regard to railways, I congratulate the Government on the expansion which has taken place, in respect of the grants which they are now devoting to their railway programmes. Those grants are very large, but notwithstanding that fact, it is all important that this matter should be dealt with, because we are still, on certain lines, especially in Bengal, as far behind in the handling of traffic, in the supply of wagons and other matters, as we were 20 years ago. I speak in this matter with exact knowledge. I received recently a letter from Calcutta stating that at the collieries there were thousands and thousands of tons of coal which were being piled up because wagons could not be obtained to move them. I remember the state of things 20 years ago, and right through the last 20 years exactly the same circumstances have prevailed, and I cannot understand why the Government cannot take such action as will put the railways, which 682 are already laid down, in a position to deal with the traffic. It is far more important that we should get the utmost we can out of the lines we have, than that we should spend more money in laying down and developing fresh lines to carry traffic which probably does not exist. This has been a grievance of the merchants in Calcutta for years and years. I am speaking now only about the railways in Bengal. The fact remains that to-day, notwithstanding the expenditure of vast sums of money, it takes something like five days to turn a wagon round from the coal pits at Jherria, only 130 miles from Calcutta. It takes about five days on the average to turn a wagon round that short distance. The position is an impossible one, and I hope the Government will take steps to have it made right as speedily as possible. That is so far as Bengal is concerned.
With regard to the trouble in the Punjab and in the Central Provinces, here is another matter to which I desire to call attention. My information is only that which is conveyed to all Members of this House by means of Reuter's telegrams, but I gather that in the Punjab things are looking very gloomy, and I hope the Government are watching them with a very careful eye. In the Central Provinces—Nagpur—very much the same condition of affairs prevails. It is not so bad there at the present moment as in the Punjab, but unless something is done it is going to be very bad indeed. There is one more matter on the financial side in connection with which I should be glad if the Government did something, and that is the Bank rate. We know that the Bank rate depends on the supply and demand of money, and in India much can be done by the Government in connection with the issue of Government notes. I saw in the "Times" of Monday last that Sir Basil Blackett had been at Bombay discussing this matter with the Bombay merchants, and I understand some arrangement has been made by which greater facilities will be given in this connection. I need hardly say that a Bank rate of 8 per cent. does not conduce to business activity or expansion, and as India depends so much on her industrial development, I hope what action can be taken will be taken in this direction.
Regarding the speech of the hon. Member for North Battersea, I was at a loss to follow his line of argument. So 683 far as I could gather, his great trouble was that we were finding employment for the people. I am referring particularly to the jute industry, with which I have had the honour of being connected for the last 18 or 19 years, and I gather from the way the hon. Member spoke that what he objects to is that we found employment for 350,000 or 400,000 Indians in the jute mills on the banks of the Hooghly. These workmen are well housed? I heard some remarks that they had no houses, no sanitation, no medical attendance, and that nothing is being done for them; but that is not correct. For many years past brick buildings have been put up in connection with the mills to house the workers. The owners of the mills have put up healthy lines and spent lakhs of rupees on sanitation and every worker has free medical attendance.
Great point has been made as to what is paid to the worker. We pay him according to what it costs him to live, and what his labour fetches in the market. That is the position. I say without hesitation that the Indian manual worker in the jute industry is better paid and gets better wages than he would get in any other employment in India. That is my answer to that question. It has been said that a woman gets 5s. a week, and that a man cannot earn more than 10s. a week. I dispute those figures. In our mills there are several sections of labour, weavers, for instance, who make far better wages than any others. The point is that they get house rent. I know in many cases a man will be able to have a house for himself and for his wife and family at 8 annas per month. That is 8d. per month. When hon. Members here talk about the comparative wages in this country and in India they must bear these facts in mind. A man may get much smaller wages, but the question is what does it cost him to live? If he pays 8d. per month rent for a house to be supplied by the mill you have to take that into account, and also the cost of living, food, clothing, etc. It is no good talking about educating the masses of India—or of China for that matter—to the level of Europe. You have your climate to contend against. Those in Northern climates are in a different position altogether. Here people want more clothing, fire, coal, and various other 684 things. There is no comparison in that connection, and it is well one should remember that when we are talking about the wage and raising the standard. It is also as well to remember in the future that this fight is going to be much more severe than to-day; in fact, the fight is going to be an economic fight, and is going to be between East and West. When you have disposed of India in this connection you will have to deal with the many millions of China. To-day India is waking up to her possibilities. If China subsequently wakes up to her possibilities it will be a very severe test for the West.
In regard to the remarks that fell from the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala), I should like to point out that the great bulk of the shareholders in the Indian mills are fellow Indians of the hon. Gentleman. What is the use of suggesting that the white man is bleeding the country? The mills are managed mostly by Europeans for the simple reason that Indians themselves have a great deal more confidence in mills so managed, and he judges from actual experience of the mill managed by the white man rather than by his own people. But it does not dispose of this fact—and I speak here from exact knowledge—that the great bulk of the shares in the jute mills on the Hooghly are owned by Indians, and not by Europeans. The same remark applies to the Bombay side and the cotton mills. You have not only Indian shareholders, but Indian managers, Indian directors and Indian supervisors right away through. The hon. Member for Battersea said something about the iron and the steel industry. Who runs it in Bombay but his own fellow countrymen? It is worked entirely by the Parsees and some others. Who employs the Indians on these starvation wages, which, in fact, are not starvation wages at all? It is his own fellow Indian that does it.
Is the hon. Member aware of the fact—and again I speak from exact knowledge of the figures—that on the Hooghly the wages the men get are so good—whatever they be—that they will not work more than nine months in the year? When April comes round, you have a shortage of labour and an exodous of half the workers from the cotton mills. They go back to their homes and to their farms, and they do not return to their work until 685 the middle of July. The mere fact that these men pay their own railway fares, for many miles it may be away from the mills, and that they can take their wives and children, and stay away for two or three months, disposes of the arguments they are living on starvation wages. So far as the Budget which has been discussed here is concerned, it is, to my mind, much more hopeful than any I have seen for a very long time past. It may be represented by its opponents in a very ungrateful light, but I think it is possible to congratulate both the India Office and the Indian Government, because they have adopted principles of honesty and fair finance. They have tried to carry out the mandate which this House and this country entrusted to them. They have endeavoured to hold the balance even between all classes of the community in India.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir E. GRIGG
I do not mean to detain the Committee long, but there are three points I should like to make. The first is a pleasant one, that of congratulating the Noble Earl on the statement he made to the House the other day. True, it was a very long statement, but for my part I did not find it too long, because it was full of interest, and I think it is a good precedent that a report should be made to this House—and a very full report—annually as to the affairs of India, particularly as India comes to a more and more critical period of constitutional development. I think the Noble Earl was able to give us, on the whole, a satisfactory picture of the Indian Empire, although in some respects it was rather too rosy. I doubt, for instance, if things are quite so calm in the Punjab as he seemed to imply. I have a suspicion, too, that the frontier is perhaps not so quiet as he assured us to be the case. I should be very surprised if his motor drive along the frontier was really as unprotected as described. If the authorities were as careless of him as that, they showed a great disregard for what our feelings would have been had any unrehearsed adventures befallen the Noble Lord. On the whole, however, the statement of the Noble Earl was a satisfactory one, and, if I may, I would tender my congratulations to him.
My other point is a simple one, and that is to reinforce what has been said from different parts of the House in favour of 686 helping to improve the conditions for the British Services in India at the present time.
There is, perhaps, an unfortunate tendency which arises in the discussion on these questions for speakers to stand on either one leg or the other. If they support the Civil Service they suggest that they are supporting it as the only thing left in India to save us from the deluge; while if they take the opposite line and support reforms in India they seem to show a certain hostility to the British services in India. I do not know whether that takes place in this House, but it is done in discussion outside. I myself believe and absolutely believe in the reforms. Whatever mistakes there may have been made in the details the direction is undoubtedly to seek the well-being of India in these reforms. I would say that to a large extent the peace of the Empire and the peace of the world depend upon these reforms, because chaos in India, or any movement towards chaos in India, would be very serious not only to us, not only to the British Empire, but to the whole world. I, therefore, speak as a believer in the rightness of the reforms and in the general direction taken by the reforms. For that very reason, I would enter a strong plea on behalf of the British services, because I believe them to be absolutely essential to the success of the reforms.
We are sometimes led to suppose that the main political and constitutional problem to be solved in India at the present time is simply the transition from autocratic power to representative institutions and self-government. Of course, that transition represents an important part of the problem. It is a serious problem that has to be met and great difficulties have to be faced in meeting it. I very much doubt, however, if it is the most difficult part of the constitutional problem in India. A greater difficulty arises not from the fact that you are passing from an autocratic to a system of representative institutions, but from the fact that you are trying to carry out this great transition in a vast Federation of States which has hitherto had no binding except that of autocratic power. Through all the centuries there has been no binding system in India between these various races, provinces, presidencies, no binding 687 power except the autocratic power. Therefore there is in India at the present time a double problem, not only that of passing from autocratic power to self-government, but also that of keeping the whole system together while you are doing that, and substituting some sufficient form of cement for the autocratic cement which has been there under previous direct rulers for centuries.
Everyone is familiar with the tremendous problems that have to be faced by federations at the beginning of their career. We have been through them in our own Dominions. They are most serious problems. There are, for instance, serious problems as between States, the relations of States to each other, and the relations of each State to the Central Government. They have been surmounted in the Dominions, and even in the greater area occupied by the vast population of the United States. They were, indeed, surmounted in the United States only after a terrible civil war, fought not only on a moral but on an economic question. That is an example of the difficulties which have been faced by federations which have established themselves in the world. It is, to my mind, the most difficult part of the problem of India. India is faced with a very difficult constitutional problem in discovering how she can keep all her races and provinces together under representative institutions.
There is, for instance, the question of the division of taxation between the Central Power and the provinces, and the apportionment of taxation to the different provinces. That implies a strong Central Power. She also has to face the great difficulties arising from the establishment of a customs tariff system which is going to affect all the States, whatever voice they have in the fixing of the tariff themselves. She has also to face the various problems which inevitably arise in the process of development out of State rights—railway problems, water problems, road problems, river problems—all the varied problems which development creates in a vast undeveloped territory like hers. These are terrible questions, most difficult questions for any federation, but I venture to say the complexity of them in India is greater than in any federation which has yet been attempted in the 688 world, and that is what makes this experiment of ours in India the greatest experiment in self-government which has yet been tried anywhere. After all, not only has India got to face these problems which are common to all federations, but she has got to face them in circumstances and under conditions which are peculiarly difficult and peculiar to herself. To quote Japan as an example is really not to quote any parallel. Japan is a small island with a homogeneous people. The development from autocratic institutions to self-governing institutions has presented nothing like such a problem there as in India. To quote China is not perhaps a very helpful parallel at the present time. China covers even a vaster area than India, and has more millions of population, but the population of China is more homogeneous than the population of India. Even so, China does not present a very striking example of political unity at the present time.
India, therefore, has her special difficulties. They are difficulties in great variety and they are necessarily increased by the fact that only two-thirds of India at the present time are coming into your system at all. Outside British India there is an Indian India of Indian States, and the sole link between that India and the other India is allegiance to the King-Emperor. There is no other constitutional link. By some means you have to bridge that constitutional lacuna. There is also in India the special difficulty that the races and provinces which have developed most political capacity are not those which have hitherto shown the greatest fighting power, and you have to solve the problem of getting sufficient force behind representative government to enable it to survive the disruptive racial tendencies and the hostility of the non-political warlike races in the Indian polity.
There is also, of course, the great difficulty which is causing so much trouble in one province at least at the present time, and that is the profound religious division between Hindus and Mahommedans. It is true that these things caused only slight difficulties in the past, but that has been due to the fact that there has been a very strong central power exercised by men who, whatever their weaknesses or failures, were at least not suspected of partisanship as between this race and that race, or this province 689 and that province, or this religion and that religion. The reason we have held India together is not principally because we have been strong, but because we have been fair. That binding influence has to be maintained in the future. The hon. Member for Kennington (Mr. Harrison) has pointed out the great difficulties of the transition period. We have to prevent the inter-State difficulties developing to such an extent that they will absolutely destroy all the hope of the reforms in India, and that can only be done by a strong central power which contains a large element of the moderating, reconciling, balancing power of a people and a race who, while anxious to co-operate with the Indian people, are no party to the racial, religious, or other divisions which are so serious in India at the present time. That is the overwhelming argument for the British Services in India; and it is not based upon pessimism with regard to the reforms, but upon a firm belief in them and a desire that they should succeed.
The Noble Lord the Under-Secretary told us that a Royal Commission is to go out to India, but there appears to be no consideration to be given to the immediate needs of the Service until this Commission has reported, and I regret that very much. Certain things ought to be done immediately for all the Services in India. There is no need for further argument on this question because the grievances are well known. Their financial conditions, and the existing conditions in reference to coming to England on leave are very bad, and they might have been attended to at once. I submit that is a serious criticism upon the course taken by the Government. I would, however, urge two things on the Under-Secretary in connection with this Commission. I hope it will not go up and down India, as previous Commissions have done, taking evidence in public and rousing throughout India all the prejudices which are likely to be roused by a discussion of the respective merits of British and Indian public servants. On that subject all that can be known is known. I hope the Commission will make their inquiries privately, and that there will not be any occasion for racial and political demonstrations, which are too easily provoked on occasions of this kind. My only other plea is that this Com- 690 mission should be instructed to report soon. It is most important if the condition of these Services is not to be dealt with until the Commission has reported, that it should report at latest next spring. I believe that is necessary. A great deal of work has been done by previous Commissions in the past. I quite agree that there are new points to be considered, but they can be considered without going over the whole of the ground covered by previous Commissions. I think this Commission ought to report by next spring, and I hope instructions will be given for them to do so.
§ Sir THOMAS BENNETT
I intend to vote for the Motion, but not because I am a supporter of the Government. Recognising that Indian questions are not party questions, I feel free when I think it necessary to vote against the Government upon an Indian question. I vote for the Government now with a full conviction of the righteousness of their policy, and the wisdom of the action which the Government of India have taken in regard to this matter. In saying this I know I am giving disappointment to many of my Indian friends, but at the same time I am bound to look at the facts as they are, and I am bound to look at the Act of 1919 as it is, and not as another Act framed entirely on different lines from those on which this Act has been framed. It is in the interests of the people of India that I support the Government in the action they have taken. There has been a great deal of controversy and agitation in India on this subject, and I am not surprised at that. No one supposes that the Salt Tax will be a popular tax in India or in any other country. It has a history, of course, which turns one's sympathies against it, and it can only be justified on the ground of necessity and of fiscal convenience. I think this agitation in regard to the Salt Tax has been a little overdone. A Punjab Member of the Council of State said the other day:The tax was not so crushing as to justify the big howl which has been raised in the Assembly.I will not apply the phrase "big howl" now, because that may be wanting in respect to those who have contested the action of the Government, but if the leaders of thought in India had endeavoured to modify and control to 691 some extent the forces of agitation which have been aroused in India, they would have done a much greater service to the country than they have done. I intend to say very little about the Salt Tax, because that has been dealt with so fully that there is little more to say about it. I would remind the Committee that some of the very unfavourable prognostications which have been uttered in regard to the enhanced duty on salt have not been fulfilled. We were told that the effect of doubling the Salt Tax would be to double the price of salt, but the result has been entirely different. Instead of that result, I believe that the average increase in the price of salt up to the middle of last month was 34 per cent. In one Province it was as high as 44 per cent., whilst in the Central Provinces it was as low as 20 per cent. Therefore that prognostication has not been fulfilled. Really the central point is the balancing of the Budget. That is recognised on all hands, and even the opponents of the policy of the Government recognise it. I will take, for instance, a statement made by a well-known commercial member representing Bombay, who stated in one of the Chambers thatThe Budget ought to be balanced. There is no doubt about it. Those of us who have anything to do with commercial concerns notice that unless the Budget is balanced neither the country nor the Government have any credit with the outside world.That is a more noteworthy statement, because the man who made it is a very independent critic of the Government and his counsels always carry great weight, not only in Bombay circles, but at the seat of the Imperial Government. If my proposition, that the balancing of the Budget is the central point in the whole problem, needs any further strengthening, I will quote from the Inchcape Report—So long as peace conditions obtain, the first essential is for India to balance the Budget; and further it is clear that the country cannot afford the heavy charges involved by a further huge addition to the unproductive debt, and if India is to remain solvent immediate steps must be taken to balance the Budget.I know there have been people who have minimised the necessity of balancing the Budget, and they have spoken of it as a small thing to face a deficit, even if it is 692 a small one. I need not repeat the old story about the small one, but it does not avail in this case because, large or small, a deficit is a serious matter taken in connection with the recent financial history of India. You cannot minimise the seriousness of the sixth deficit, and you cannot look lightly at the prospects of another. It is not a question of the amount of the deficiency, but really the philosophy of the question is summed up in Browning's linesThe little more, and oh how much it is, The little less, and what a world away.It is this little less which under the circumstances makes the balancing a more imperative necessity than it would have been had the circumstances been different. The policy of the Government of India, with one or two exceptions, has been to appear before the Assembly with a balanced Budget, and there was ample reason for the Government at all costs insisting upon going back to the old system of having a balanced Budget to lay before the Assembly. There has been practical justification for the insistence upon a balanced budget. We have heard a great deal about newspaper agitation in India, and we have been told that the whole Press of India has gone against the Government in this matter. To some extent that is true, but on the other hand there have been cool, level-headed men of business who have not been carried away by the agitation. Let me quote a passage from a money article in a leading Indian paper. It was published on the 24th March, three weeks after the Budget had been introduced:The business community thoroughly sympathises with the Government in its efforts to create a balanced Budget, and opinion is gathering strength that the opposition to the Salt Duty is mainly political and sentimental, and that economically the duty is sound. The country's salvation depends on a balanced Budget.6.0 P.M.
That comes from a business writer, who stands far outside the rising tide of agitation and condemnation of the Government, and that is what he wrote in March last. We have had comments at home also, of a financial but not of a political nature. We had, in a money article in the "Times" on the 12th May, these words:The balancing of the Indian Budget after a period of deficits has improved the credit of India as a borrower and this is reflected in the steady rise in her securities. 693 Countries with budgetary deficits have not been able to take advantage of the general fall in interest rates, as a glance at a list of foreign Government Bonds with show.These are reasons which have not been taken into account by hon. Members opposite who criticise the action of the Government of India. I could give further evidence of the same kind, but here comes, what I may call, the clinching fact of the financial necessity for the balancing of the Budget. The "Times," three or four days ago, told us thatSince the date when the determination of the Government of India to balance her Budget was announced rupee paper has advanced by 14 per cent. In 1921 6½ per cent. was being paid by India to investors in this country. Sterling alone gave a return of 5¼ per cent. That standard is moving up and meanwhile the floating debt of India is being substantially reduced.In the past the main attack on the Government of India has been made in this country on financial grounds. The Government has been charged with mismanaging the finances of India. I think I may fairly point to the extracts I have just given as proving that financially, at all events, the policy of the Government has met with ample justification. I do not know whether these quotations would have carried much weight at some of the excited meetings which have been held in India. I doubt, for instance, whether the Bombay orator who said that the Salt Tax was a cruel tax "on the life blood of the people," would have been greatly moved by considerations of this kind. But I may confidently appeal to hon. Members opposite in saying that these financial considerations are of real importance. We always try to get the view of the average man on any matter. What, I would ask, would the position of the average man have been had he been called upon to decide how he would give his vote when the Government of India, on its own responsibility, definitely stated that it was a matter of necessity—of imperative necessity—that the Budget should be balanced by the means which it suggested. I myself would not have taken the responsibility of refusing to support the Government when it put the matter before me in that way. The Government say, on their own responsibility, that "in the interests of India it is necessary we should have the financial resources placed at our disposal, which we now ask for." I should have had no difficulty in deciding how to give 694 my vote under those circumstances. Remember this.
After five deficits, I think I may confidently say, a sixth deficit, even if small, would have been a much more serious matter than the fifth deficit, though it had been much larger. I could well understand after the fifth deficit the Government accepting the vote of the Chamber and saying "We may leave this deficit uncovered for the time being.' But remember what has occurred in the interval. We have had the Inch-cape Report, we have had large retrenchments carried out. The Government can fairly say to-day, "We have done our best to bring down the expenditure in all directions. It has been reduced by many crores of rupees." Under these circumstances they could fairly claim that the position was much worse, that these deficits cannot go on indefinitely, and the time has come to enter upon an era of balanced budgets. I come next to the question whether the circumstances were sufficient to justify the Viceroy in taking the action that he did in certifying the Finance Bill of the current year. I do not complain of much that has been said on the other side of the House in the criticisms which have been passed on the Government, but I do complain of what fell from the hon. Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne (Mr. Trevelyan), who spoke of the action of the Governor-General as though it were a normal action resorted to in normal and ordinary circumstances. He used this expression:Even Lord Reading's apprehensions hardly make out a case of immediate and unavoidable disaster for the course he insisted on being taken.I have looked into the Act of 1919. I see nothing in it about "unavoidable" disaster or disaster of any kind. What I find is this, that when in the interests of India it is necessary that a particular financial Measure should be passed, then he is to exercise his powers, powers which the Joint Committee said are meant to be used. We have nothing here about disaster, or a great national disaster or emergency justifying the conditions under which the Viceroy should act. The words are:If the Measure is essential for the safety, tranquillity or interests of British India.There is nothing there about any emergency or any disaster. It is simply to be 695 in the interests of British India. Can hon. Members imagine anything more in the interests of India than the rehabilitation of her finances? I cannot imagine anything more urgent except, perhaps, the defence of the country against invasion. I can imagine nothing more urgent than the rehabilitation of the finances of India after a time of stress and difficulty such as she has passed through. I do not think it is quite fair, therefore, to speak of the Viceroy exercising his special powers as though he used them in normal circumstances. Immediate and unavoidable disaster, we are told, are the only conditions we could have justified the use of the Viceroy's powers. The power is only to be used, said the hon. Member, to save the Government from wreckage in some very supreme crisis. I do not think the word "crisis" occurs in the Act. The word "emergency" does more than once. To say that a supreme crisis was necessary to warrant the Viceroy's action is not right. That action was fully warranted if it was proved to be in the true, real, fundamental interests of British India. That being so, I hold that the Viceroy acted within his powers, and as a loyal and earnest supporter of the policy of reform I am glad that he so acted, because he acted in accordance with the letter, and, what is more important, with the spirit, of the Act of 1919.
I think that we should be unpatriotic and impolitic if we sent out to the Viceroy the message that is implied in the Amendment proposed on the other side. The Viceroy has done nothing to warrant it. He has acted throughout in loyal compliance with the powers given him by the Act. We are told of broken pledges. There are no broken pledges. I resent the charge that we have been guilty of breaking pledges in this matter. What are the pledges? One pledge was that autocracy should go. Another was contained in the statement of the Finance Minister to the Assembly "Now you vote your own taxation." These statements must be read in relation to the surrounding circumstances. They must be read in connection with the conditions laid down in the Act. These were already in existence. They were operative and the promises given under the circumstances must be interpreted in the light of the Act itself. Sir Malcolm 696 Hailey at any rate made no promise to the Assembly which would be inconsistent with any part of the Act of 1919, and of course the assurances he gave must be read in relation to the stipulations of the Act.
The time is appropriate for looking at the Act of 1919 a little more frankly than we have hitherto done. We have to recognise that it did not confer full responsibility on the people of India. It did not confer full legislative responsibility upon either the Assembly or the Councils. I know there was great disappointment al the absence of the principle of diarchy in the Central Government. No one listening to what the hon. Member for Oldham (Sir E. Grigg) said about the functions of the Central Government could fail to realise that we had to be deliberate and slow in moving forward to the conferment of full responsibility on the Legislative Assembly and on the Central Government. One thing that I think may be learned from this Instruction is this. The responsibilities for the Government of India still rest in all important matters upon this Parliament. We have been reminded of that by all that has happened. It should not be for gotten. The Act of 1919 has been somewhat misunderstood by the people who regarded it as setting up full self-governing institutions in India. Let us be honest with the. Act and take it as it is. It did nothing of the kind. It made large concessions to the people of India. It endowed them with large liberties, but, at the same time, that endowment was accompanied by safeguards. We will cling to those safeguards, we will respect them, as we respect the liberties conferred by the Act. They are both part and parcel of the Act. Let us take the Act and apply it as it is. Do not let us read into it provisions which do not exist. Further we must remember that our whole history is a monument of responsibility with regard to India. For at least 150 years this country has carried on a mission, sometimes failing, sometimes making mistakes, but on the whole a beneficent mission. She has made sacrifices, she has incurred responsibilities, and those responsibilities cannot lightly be thrown off; neither must the sacrifices he forgotten.
There is one other matter on which I wish to speak. A movement is going on 697 in India for hurrying on the fuller and more complete development of the system of self-government. Again one needs a very clear definition of what our responsibility is. The preamble of the Act is very definite. No one can mistake its meaning. I do not think it has been studied or borne in mind as fully as it ought to have been. The chief point, the determining point in it is that Parliament itself is to be the judge of the extent and pace at which further movements towards self-government shall be taken. The question remains in the hands of Parliament. We have always been ready to listen to the feelings and opinions of our friends in India, but we cannot forget our own responsibility. There is a message which I think ought to go from this House to the Councils. Sometimes a wrong message goes. At the beginning of the system of reform the message that went out from the opposite side of the House was to the effect that the reforms were trumpery and not worth having, and that what India should do was to go on agitating for a great deal more. That was one of the messages sent out. Another message which has been sent out, sometimes from this side of the House, is that the Councils are a failure, that they claim no respect, and that a good deal of their deliberations consists of little more than rubbish. That is a harmful message to go to India, very harmful indeed. We have to look at what is happening in India. For my part, I cannot encourage those who say the time has come for the full satisfaction of the demands of the people of India.
That time is not yet. The first essential for that fuller advance which is urged upon us is an educated electorate in India. Have we yet got an educated electorate there? I should be glad if I could say we have, but I am confident that we have not, and that we are still far from it. The Councils have been in operation for more than two and a-half years. How many of the members of the Assembly or of the Provincial Councils have gone to their constituents in that time? I remember when I was in India talking to one of the members and telling him how I had had to address six meetings in a single week in my own constituency. He simply stood aghast. Until the political classes get into closer touch with their constituents—and I am 698 told there are Ministers who have never yet visited their constituencies—until they are better educated, until all that has been amended we cannot discuss any further large advance. Think of the atmosphere in which some of the operations of the Councils are carried on. Think of the kind of political education that is going on. Only the other day a question arose whether certain parties in India should go into the Councils, and that question was referred by a number of Mahommedans to a meeting of mullahs, who decided that it was against the Sacred Law to have anything to do with the Council. Until rubbish of that kind is done away with there can be no safe progress made. I think the best service that could be rendered by hon. Members opposite is to tell their friends in India that we are living, after all, in the twentieth century and that obscurantist nonsense of that kind can form no part of the political education of the people. The members of the Council, I believe, will be able to put before their constituents a good record of what they have achieved—a very good record. Take, for instance, the Bombay Presidency, of which I know most. I am sure the Bombay Council has quite a good record. It has, in the first place, passed an Act for compulsory education. It has carried out a policy of retrenchment. It has taken upon itself that huge enterprise, the Sukkur Barrage, which it is going to control within the next 10 or 12 years. It has carried out a number of measures of reform for the municipalities, and it has also done one thing which I should like to press upon the notice of hon. Members in all parts of the Committee.
The Bombay Minister for Education recently issued a Circular which, I venture to hope, solves the question of untouchability in the elementary schools. It gives the untouchables equal rights in the elementary schools with people of higher castes. I regard that as a very great achievement, because, it was done under the hand of a Brahmin minister, and, when anti-Brahmins tell me that the Brahmins are going to tyrranise over India, I point to that as a proof that a Brahmin can be a true twentieth century reformer. In view of these facts, I think the Councils can go before their countrymen and say, "We have done good work, and it is for you to put confidence in us. Do not listen to the 699 people who say, 'Send us into the Councils so that we may wreck them.'" As hon. Members know, there is a faction—indeed, more than a faction, I am sorry to say—which is contemplating going into the Councils with the view of wrecking them. This Parliament ought to send a message of good will to the people of India, and to tell them that we are watching with interest and sympathy the earlier steps which they are taking in the direction of self-government, that we have a deep and genuine desire that they may ultimately reach the status of a self-governing Dominion; but that, in the meantime, things are not to be rushed, that we will act in the spirit and in the letter of the Act of 1919, and that our policy shall be one of measured progress.
Before I sit down, I wish to say one word with regard to the question of the Civil Services. Two hon. Members have spoken of the conditions and claims of the Services in India. May I bring forward in this House the claim of a section of the retired servants of the Government of India who for some little time have been labouring under a serious grievance? They are the people who are familiarly, but incorrectly, spoken of as officers of the Uncovenanted Civil Service in India. The members of that Service petitioned for an increase in their pensions, and, when the matter was referred to a Royal Commission, it was found that the pensions given to this Service were inadequate. When, however, action was taken on the Report of the Royal Commission, it was decided that a portion of the memorialists should have an enhanced pension, but that the others should not. A date was fixed, and those who retired after that date received the enhanced pension, while those who retired before were refused all enhancement whatever. Divisions have been made, distinctions have been drawn, between officers whose claims were undoubtedly equal. You have equal claims and you have unequal treatment. I have never yet, although I have taken a great deal of trouble in this matter, been able to see why that distinction was drawn. Those who have been, as they think, wronged, who have been refused the increased pension, hold that they have been the victims of unfairness and of, I am sorry to say, a breach of faith. That is their case, and they found 700 that case upon a letter, in which the Government of India informed the men who had been memorialising them on this subject that the Report of the Commission must be awaited. In 1913, when memorials were again coming in, the Government, in a Circular dated 23rd July, expressed its inability to pass Orders until the Report had been received, and added:I am, however, to state, for the information of the memorialists, that, should the pension rules be modified as a result of their memorial, or in consequence of any recommendations by the Royal Commission, the position of officers who have retired by then will, no doubt, be taken into consideration when the conditions of eligibility for the altered pension are fixed, due weight being given to the arguments addressed by the memorialists in favour of their being allowed to participate in better pension terms, even if the alterations are effected after their retirement.I can only read that as a promise of equal treatment, and as a promise that those who retired before the decision was taken should not suffer on account of their having so retired.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I gather that the hon. Member is quoting from a letter from the Government of India—not from the Royal Commission.
§ Sir T. BENNETT
Yes, it is a letter from the Government of India. I wish to put it to the Noble Lord that the members of that Service feel that they have been unjustly treated, that a distinction has been drawn against them which there was nothing to warrant, and, further, that a promise that had been given to them, that they should not suffer if they retired before the decision was taken, has been broken. It is not a good thing that any section of officials or ex-officials should go about the country complaining that they have been unjustly treated by the Government, and it is a very bad thing that any foundation whatever should be given for the charge. But the charge is made, and I should like to hear that there is an answer to it. I should like to hear still more that the Government will re-open the question. The decision was not taken by them but by their predecessors. I know the convention that one Government honours the engagements entered into by its predecessor. The convention is enforced, but I think it is much more important that there should be no suspicion of bad faith prevailing amongst a number of 701 men who have been serving the Government.
§ Mr. PONSONBY
I have listened in the last Debate to the statements of the Noble Lord with great interest, and I should like to join with others in congratulating him on the way he discharged a very formidable task. But I thought the most disappointing part of his statement was his attempt to reply to the charge which we bring in the Amendment which was moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Trevelyan). I was interested this afternoon in the first speech to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Roberts) support with formidable arguments the case we laid before the House the other day, but apparently the courage of his convictions is not going to carry him into the Lobby with us. I regard this as really not a matter of whether the Salt Tax is economically sound or whether it is wanted or not wanted. The grave question, as it appears to me, is that considerable damage has been done to the prestige and authority of the new Assembly in its infancy, and I think that is in every way to be regretted. The whole range of Indian affairs which is covered in these Debates always makes me wonder why it is that we have got this extraordinary confidence in being so sure that we can teach other people to govern themselves when we do not make a very conspicuous success of governing ourselves. But I rose in order to call attention to one specific question, which, I hope, the Noble Lord may be able to give us information upon. I raise it, not by way of attack or criticism, but because I want to ask for information. It is the attitude of the Government of India with regard to the opium question. The opium question used to be discussed a great deal in years gone by, and I think many people are apt to suppose that there is no opium question to-day, but it has come to the front in a rather formidable manner, and the attitude of the Indian Government is putting an obstacle in the path of those who desire to see some great reform carried out. The United States have taken a very special interest in this problem, because they suffer from the import of opium into their country. They have come to the conclusion that the control of the importation is impossible, because it is so easy to smuggle, and they have 702 therefore formulated their project with a view to restricting the production of opium. To show the Committee exactly how serious the matter is, 125 tons of opium in the world are used for medicinal and scientific purposes, while 1,350 tons are scattered broadcast, and have a very damaging effect on those who use it.
By The Hague Convention of 1912, to which we were signatories, we agreed to take drastic steps with a view to suppressing this traffic, but the United States are taking the initiative lately. A resolution passed by Congress last January puts the whole case of the United States in a nutshell:Resolved, that the effective control of these drugs can be obtained only by limiting the production thereof to the quantity required for strictly medicinal and scientific purposes, thus eradicating the source or root of the present conditions, which are solely due to production many times greater than is necessary for such purposes, and further, that in the hope of accomplishing this end the President be and he hereby is requested to urge upon the Governments of Great Britain, Persia and Turkey the immediate necessity of limiting the growth of the poppy and the production of opium and its derivatives exclusively to the amount actually required for strictly medicinal and scientific purposes.A Committee sat at Geneva last month under the auspices of the League of Nations to deal with the whole matter, and the case was brought up by the American delegation, which really embodied those resolutions. Sir Malcolm Delevingne, who was the representative of our Colonies, and the representatives of France, Germany, Portugal, Holland, Japan and Siam all concurred in the American resolution with only the reservation to, of course, the restriction of production must be done gradually. But the representative of the Indian Government had a very distinct reservation. The representative of the Indian Government laid down that the use of raw opium according to established practice in India, and its production for such use, is not illegitimate under the Convention. Of course, that entirely blocked the way, prevented unanimity, prolonged the discussion, and made the American delegates go away from Geneva with a grievance, because they felt that the Government of India has blocked the way.
What I want the Noble Lord to tell us exactly is what the reason of the attitude of India is. There is in India a cultivation of about 116,000 acres of the poppy, 703 and the revenue derived from opium is about 3 per cent. of the total revenue of India. On the question as to whether the sacrifice of revenue is the reason for India's attitude there seems to be a conflict of opinion. In the Inchcape Report there is mention of the necessity of safeguarding an important source of revenue, and yet Mr. Campbell, who recently spoke before the League of Nations Committee of this House, said the revenue question in no way actuated him in taking the attitude he did. There seems to be a distinct opposition between these two authorities as to whether or not it is revenue that makes India take this attitude. I am perfectly well aware that the opium that gets into the United States comes largely from Persia and Turkey, and that Indian opium does not get there, but it is quite obvious that the United States Government is in a very weak position for approaching the Governments of Turkey and Persia if it is not even able to persuade the Government of Great Britain to conform to The Hague Convention and to co-operate with the other Powers. This attitude of the Indian representative has made a very bad impression in America, and there is a great deal of strong feeling there, very naturally, because they are victimised by the drug, and I do not know that there is anything which would help to bring about harmony more than our altering our attitude in this way. After all, it is rather hypocrisy on our part to pass a Dangerous Drugs Act to protect our own people and, at the same time, to derive revenue from exploiting the vices and weaknesses of the native people in our Colonies and Dependencies and in the Indian Empire. I hope the Noble Lord will be able to tell us what is the precise reason for India not joining with the other Powers. It seems to be a matter in which instead of placing obstacles we should take the lead in co-operating with those agencies which are doing their utmost to stamp out this great evil. Both at Geneva, when the League of Nations Committee was recently meeting and on other occasions, Sir John Jordan, who is a very great authority on the subject, entirely ranged himself on the side of the American delegates. I feel that we ought, in a matter of this sort—it is a great moral issue—to take the lead, and we 704 ought, even at some sacrifice, to co-operate with those nations and those societies who are working to stamp out the great curse which at present must be said to lead largely to the degradation of many human beings.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD - BURY
I have spent many years in India, and my chief desire now is to do what I can to further the real interests and the real progress of the majority of Indians. During the last year there has been a very marked improvement in the condition of the country. When I was last out there two years ago non-co-operation was in full swing, the Ali brothers were preaching sedition in the North, Gandhi was visiting Calcutta, and there were disturbances in nearly every town that he visited. In the autumn of that year the first signs of firmness by the Government were shown by the arrest of the two Ali brothers, and this was followed shortly afterwards by the arrest of Ghandi, and the non-co-operation movement was then and there we might say nipped, and at present it is more in a state of suspended animation than anything else. Their dupes, who were mostly uneducated people, began to realise that the promises which had been made by their leaders could not possibly be carried out. I saw, however, that at the Congress at Gaya the other day they were trying to organise some 50,000 people to join in a policy of civil disobedience and non-payment of taxes, but I consider that that policy only appealed to a very small section indeed of the people of India. During the past 12 months there has been such a vast improvement over the greater part of the country that I hope within a short time, with a continued policy of firmness, we shall see the last of non-co-operation.
There has been a great deal of talk about the Viceroy certifying the Salt Tax, and there has been talk in this House about that particular tax as if it were a tax of extraordinary importance to India. The agitation that has been raised about this tax is a great agitation, but I can assure hon. Members that the agitation is all very largely fictitious. It does not appeal to the vast masses of the population. From the years 1888 to 1903 the Salt Tax stood at exactly the same rate as it does to-day after being certified. At that time the wages of the people were 705 from two to four annas, instead of from six to 12 annas as they are to-day, so that if the tax to-day were to be compared with the taxes in the years 1888 to 1903, it would have to stand at five rupees to the maund.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
The cost of living in India has risen during that time, but during the last year or two it has fallen again very considerably. It has fallen something like 60 per cent. from the high prices of 1920–21. To compare the wages that are earned and the amount that is required to support the needs of a native in India, as the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) did, with wages earned in this country with its different standard of life is absurd. You need to compare it with their standard of living, and you will find that three or four annas, which is probably the total amount that each man will pay directly under this Salt Tax to the Government of India, is equivalent to about one day's wage in the year, whereas in England we are living under an Income Tax and Super-Tax which takes something like 100 to 200 days labour in order to make payment to the Government. Therefore, I cannot look upon this agitation against the Salt Tax as being more than a fictitious agitation.
The Budget has failed to meet during the past five years. Every year has seen a considerable deficit. India needs to borrow. Very large works are in progress, or about to be commenced, and in order to be able to borrow money at a low rate of interest the credit of the country must stand good, and unless the Budget can be made to meet, the credit of the country cannot be good. Therefore, it was of the greatest importance that the tax should be raised in order to meet the deficit on the Budget. There was much consideration as to alternative methods. Several days were taken in considering them. There was a suggested tax on jute, which would not have Suited many people. There was a suggested extra import tax on cotton goods. That would not have suited Manchester. Nearly one-third of the cotton goods consumed in India are imported. Therefore, the extra tax on imported cotton goods would have meant that out of every 706 three rupees that, the public had to pay only one rupee would have gone to the Government of India, because the big cotton firms in Bombay would have raised their prices and two-thirds would have gone into the pockets of the mill-owners of Bombay. The Salt Tax is easy to collect. Three-fourths of the salt is raised in India, from the salt factories in Bombay and Madras, from the Salt Range and from Kobat and a little from Rajputana and The Runa of Cutch. I believe a small amount of salt is imported from Tibet, free of all duties, in order to try and encourage commerce with Tibet. Every penny raised from the Salt Tax goes direct to the Government, and the Viceroy, in certifying the Salt Tax, has acted for the very best interests and the real progress of India With respect to the military situation, I would point out that the military expenditure takes 57 per cent. of the Budget in India, which is a very large amount.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
Last year's Budget. Since that time there have been considerable reductions, to the extent of five crores. A reduction of over nine crores was recommended by the Inchcape Commission, and already this year it has been reduced to the extent of five crones. The conditions are gradually changing in the country. It is no longer necessary to keep every battalion to its full strength, and I believe that among the reductions 130 men have been taken from each infantry battalion, and a certain number from each regiment of cavalry of the Indian Army. All these reductions have been passed by Lord Rawlinson, the Commander-in-Chief in India, and they have been or are about to be carried out. The chief military expenditure lies along the North-West Frontier, which is a very mountainous and extremely difficult country, inhabited by wild tribes who have barely enough to live on. In a bad season they have no food in their wild mountains, and they come down to the plains and raid and loot and then retire into the hills again. We have to keep up a strong force along the frontier to deal with these raids.
707 During the past few years a considerable amount of money has been spent on making roads along this mountainous country in order to hold it with a smaller force at certain strategical points, and when a raid comes on to be able to send out a mobile column to cut off the raiders and prevent any such thing happening again. The policy of frontier roads will enable us to cut down our forces very considerably on the frontier. We all regret the outrages that have recently taken place, but when you get a large and fanatical Mahommedan population living on the frontier, and across the frontier, and when they think that to kill a Christian means that they go to Heaven—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question!"] It is so to the fanatical Mahommedan. He comes across the frontier and he kills and then retires. It is very hard to restrain these fanatics. In the case of the last murder they have fled to Afghanistan, and up to the present time the Amir has caught two of the murderers. The other two are dodging about between the tribes on the frontier and Afghanistan, but we hope it may be possible that these two will be captured shortly.
A very interesting experiment is in progress in regard to what is called the Indianisation of certain regiments in India. It is a totally novel experiment to try to officer Indian regiments purely with Indian officers. It has only just started, and it is too early to say whether or not it is going to be a success. There are difficulties in the way, but the difficulties can be overcome. It is a very interesting scheme to watch, and I should deprecate any attempt to hurry on the scheme too much. There was a debate in the Indian Assembly at Simla the other day, in which the desire to hurry on the experiment was expressed. In order to gauge the experiment we have to watch it for a few years. We must remember that 10 years' time is a very small time in the life of a nation, and that the East does not change as rapidly as the West. I ask hon. Members not to be in too great a hurry, but to see how this experiment acts. If it is a success we should extend it, and if it is a failure in one regiment we should try it in another and give it a fair trial.
The greater part of the country has become very much more peaceful, but 708 there is one exception, and that is the Punjab. There there is a growing turbulence among the Sikhs, and I put this down to a great extent to the reaction which took place in the Punjab after the Sir Michael O'Dwyer regime. The Punjab was in need of money, and in order to economise they cut down the police. They, however, cut down the police too much, with the result that we find the Babar Akalis committing political murders in the Punjab. This year there have been 10 political murders, and a great many outrages also, and it has been necessary to bring in troops owing to the reduction in the police. At the same time, the Punjab is trying to arrange an additional police force to make up for the deficiency. It is easy enough to reduce the police force, but not so easy to create it again when it is wanted in a hurry. While on the subject of the police, I should like to draw attention to the fact that the police officers are about the worst paid in India. Their salaries have not risen with the cost of living, but have only increased about 25 per cent. Lord Lee of Fareham is going out in connection with the Indian Civil Service Commission in the next cold weather: it will take at least a year to make his Report which will then have to be considered, and two or three years will elapse before anything can be done. Would it not be possible in the meantime to do something to these very valuable servants in the way of giving them a bonus to enable them to meet the increased cost of living?
Another great grievance that is felt, not only by the Army but by the civilians, in India is the cost of fares to and from India. The Peninsula and Oriental Company have practically a monopoly of the service. The fares have been raised to a very large amount, and have not been reduced correspondingly with the fall in the cost of living. It means a great deal to a man who has had to serve for years in India to be able to send his wife and children home. There are also not sufficient troopers to accommodate the officers and their wives and children when they want to come home. Would it not be possible to come to some arrangement with the Peninsular and Oriental Company by which the Indian civil servants and officers employed in the services of the Government of India could be guaran- 709 teed some facilities for their passages, or could not some arrangement be made with the company by which they could be granted reduced fares? The other provinces in India are very much quieter than they were 18 months or two years ago, but there would seem to be somehow a want of co-operation between the Governors of the various Provinces. The other day the Governor of one Province released all the political prisoners in his charge. This seemed to be done regardless of the views of the other Governors of the Provinces. I am not aware that they knew anything about it, or that the Government of India itself knew what was happening. There should be more co-operation in matters of policy between the various Governors of the Provinces and the Government of India.
I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) who the other day raised the question of accelerating the Reform schemes in India. I beg the House to consider that these Reforms were a very great change in the life of the people in India. The people in India had been accustomed to a mild autocracy through generation after generation. Our only desire is to benefit them, and to do what we can for the happiness of those people in India. Are we likely to achieve that by bringing Western institutions and Western ideas into India, and by trying to graft them on to Indian civilisation? Can we do that in a hurry? This Parliamentary procedure, and this Parliamentary life has taken centuries to grow up, under conditions of freedom here in England. It is essentially British, and are we going to graft a sprig of oak on to the Indian teak tree, to grow in a tropical climate? Are we to expect that to succeed at once, and to grow and flourish? Are we to have the regular Parliamentary customs as we have here in this country? The time has been far too short, I think, to be able to decide whether these Reforms are a failure or a success. We must wait for the full 10 years before we can judge how far they have been successful.
The East changes but very slowly indeed, and whether our Western politics are going to bring added happiness and added benefits to the people is very much a question of doubt. 710 I cannot say whether the people in India are happier to-day than they were 300 years before Christ, in the days of the great Emperor Asoka, the greatest of the Buddist emperors, who ruled an India which was quite as big as British India, which we rule to-day, and included Afghanistan, Sind, Baluchistan, Nepal and Sikkim, and extended south so far as Madras. He issued a great number of edicts, and to-day we still find those edicts of his written on pillars of stone studded about the country. Those edicts might well be hung up to-day in every Government office, and in every business house in this country. He warns us against sloth, and tells us to get up early in the morning, and to work, and that to do good work is the first object in life. He tells us also many other useful things, and his edicts were among the soundest that were issued. I often wonder whether the people in these days were not quite as happy as we are in these modern days of civilisation, with its rush, its hurry, and its haste, and whether we are bringing benefits to the people in India. We only desire their happiness, and is that going to be any benefit to them to bring them this civilisation?
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
Is that going to add to their happiness? We have to realise that only a small portion of the people of India are educated to-day.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
Yes, after all the British rule. Only a small portion are educated, and the greater part of them are peasants, scattered all over the country in their villages. Let me take hon. Members to the vast jungles of the Central Provinces, where they will find these aborigines—the Baigas and the Gonds—with their poisoned arrows, and wearing practically no clothes. They live by hunting. I have been out with them. I have watched them stalking the Sambur, the great deer of India. They shot their quarry with bows and poisoned arrows and then followed him for two or three hours until they have found him dead. 711 Can you bring and teach Western politics to those people? Go across the vast plains in Northern India, where you may travel for a thousand miles or more without meeting a stone. There is a wonderfully rich alluvial soil where the people are only interested in their rich crops which they have sown, and whether they shall reap what they have sown. They have their Panchoyats, their village councils, which they have had for generations and generations. They are per-perfectly happy. Why should we bring politics to those villages? What do they want with them? Or let hon. Members journey across the plains, to that great chain of mountains called the Himalayas, where, after many days travel, they will come to wonderful upland valleys, with their monasteries and their peoples that have not changed for centuries. The invading hordes that swept across the plains of India have left them untouched and unchanged. I have seldom seen a happier people than these. In the remote monasteries you will find the people still illuminating their manuscripts as they did in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. They did not want to know what was going on in the rest of the world. Occasionally a trader might come across the snows to their monastery, and tell them what was happening; but it was nothing to them, they did not want to know about the outer world. They were perfectly happy, and I do urge the hon. Member not to press for these added reforms, and disturb the peaceful conditions of the country.
We should proceed but slowly, and there is no truer proverb than the old Latin one, Festina lente, "Let us hasten slowly." I suggest that we should hasten slowly in the matter of pressing these reforms on the East, which changes so slowly, and which will find great difficulty in absorbing the problems of the West. Let us try to look at the problems of the East through the spectacles of the East, and not through the spectacles of the West. Let us try to put ourselves in the place of the people out there, and realise what their lives are, and then see what a difference these alterations would make in their lives. Hon. Members desire to see—what all of us on this side of the House wish—the peace, prosperity and happiness of that country. I would ask 712 them all to work for it, in whatever way they can, but not to be in too great a hurry. Do not let us bring these democratic ideas, that have grown up in this country through generations and generations, into a country accustomed to autocracy, accustomed to be told what they are to do, and accustomed to live in a totally different manner from what we are accustomed to. We should realise that it is not by travelling and going into the country for a few weeks or months that we can learn all there is to be known about it. It needs a life study, and to live for years in the country before one can begin to realise those vast problems which await us, and which this British Empire is doing its best at the present time to solve.
§ Mr. J. HOPE SIMPSON
We have all listened with very great interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down. In this Debate we have had a feast of soul, because we have had from the hon. Member for Oldham (Sir E. Grigg) one of the finest speeches on Indian subjects which we could hear. We have had a complete statement from a commercial source from the hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir P. Newson), and the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) has given us, shall I say, a certain amount of imagination mixed up with the facts. I should not like to forget the speech of the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary, which pleased us all so greatly, and over which we only regretted that he was so pressed for time. There were numerous subjects on which he touched, and other subjects on which he had not time to touch with sufficient fullness. We shall be only too glad if he is able to reply to the many questions raised in this Debate.
The existing conditions have been dealt with by a number of speakers, and we can congratulate ourselves that they differ from those raised on the Debate on the Address last year by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. At that time, things were exceedingly bad, and the Government were hard put to it to defend themselves; but this year we may say that things are distinctly better, and for this, I think, we may thank India. It is the peaceful character of the people of India which resisted the influences brought to bear on them, and 713 which is responsible for the peace and quiet which exist. Of course, we know about the Punjab, and the Central Provinces, and the Province of Bombay, but what hon. Member is there who has lived in India who has not continually heard of those things in times when no reforms were in progress and when there was no prospect of reform? We have all met with them, and seen them; and we have all dealt with them. I do not believe that those disturbances in the scattered areas of India can be put down necessarily to the reforms which have been attempted. Yet I cannot think that all is well. We are all looking forward to the time when the political aspirations of India will be satisfied, but by no stretch of imagination can any hon. Member say that they are satisfied to-day. The political aspirations are still unsatisfied. The Government is not regarded with affection, not even with confidence, among the educated class, and the assistance of that educated class to the Government is not yet assured.
These are the objects at which we are aiming. We are aiming to associate with the British Government the assistance of the educated class in India, and in so far as we have failed to do that, our reform scheme has clearly failed. In the nature of things, this must, perhaps, be expected. We attempted to graft, as was suggested by the last speaker, a sprig of oak on to a teak tree, and we are expecting it to grow quickly. I do not think it is doing that at all. I recognise no oak twig in the Diarchical system of India; none at all; only an attempt to substitute some new and unrecognised form of Government, which we cannot call representative; on the contrary, it only represents self-government in the very slightest degree. It is no oak tree. It may be an imaginary plant, the product of some brilliant brain, of a kind never seen before in this world, and its growth is disappointingly slow. In fact, we cannot see at the moment that there is growth at all, only stagnation.
Why is this? The reason is to be found in the subjects which we have transferred to Ministries. When this system was invented and applied to India, certain subjects were reserved to the Government of India, and certain subjects were transferred. They were placed in the hands of Ministers who, to a certain extent, 714 were supposed to be semi-independent and responsible to the electorate. If we had had lots of money it is possible that the system might have worked, because we should have been able to allow those Ministers to exercise their ingenuity and powers in developing the Departments over which they were placed. Unfortunately, the whole trouble has been that we have had no money; those Departments have been starved; and there has been no opportunity for the Ministers to exercise their ability and ingenuity in new schemes for the improvement of the people in the Departments they have served. The Ministers have been powerless and impotent, owing to the want of money. India also makes this criticism, that the transferred Services are not important ones, and that the important subjects are kept in the hands of the Europeans. That criticism is undoubtedly, to a large extent, true, and is bound to be, so long as this system remains; because so long as the Indian Government is responsible to the Secretary of State it is certain that it must have in its hands the power to regulate the most important Departments of the State.
Before the War the Budget of India ran from £75,000,000 to £80,000,000. Now it runs from £130,000,000 to £140,000,000. In 1914, before the War, the non-productive debt of India was only £12,800,000. It was reduced from a sum of about £70,000,000 in 1908 to £12,000,000 in 1914. Thus in 1914 practically there was no unproductive debt. Now we have a non-productive debt of something between £200,000,000 and £250,000,000 sterling. Military expenditure has gone up from £20,000,000 to £40,000,000 or £50,000,000. All that has happened to a large extent during the first years of reform. It is extraordinarily unfortunate that, just at the very moment when we want money to help those reforms along, money the only chance of success, we should be starved in this way, owing to circumstances over which we have no control. It is due to the war in Afghanistan, the Waziristan expedition, the rise in prices, the extra cost of staff, and the extra cost of rank and file in the Army. These are the causes that have starved India of money, and therefore interfered with the success of the reforms. It is very unfortunate, but it is not a 715 matter over which the Government of India have any control.
Another point with regard to this starvation of money. These reforms have coincided with a great increase of taxation. That in itself is liable to make the reforms unpopular. If the Government of India produces reforms on the one hand, and, having got the machinery, through that machinery imposes taxation, the country is going to say that the reforms are not real. And the reforms are bound to be unpopular for this reason. Most of the taxation in that unfortunate country falls on the poor. The reason is obvious. The rich are comparatively very few. The country is poor, and, therefore, any considerable amount of money has got to be raised by imposts on the poor. We do it by indirect taxation, Customs duties, Excise duties, taxes on liquor, and the tax on salt. With regard to the tax on salt, I think that on political grounds the Governor-General was wrong, but on economic grounds I do not think so. That tax is no harder than an indirect tax, say, on cotton goods, brass, iron, or whatever you may like to take. If anything that is consumed by the community is taxed, the tax is paid by the community. During the Debates on the Budget and the means by which the deficit was to be made up, it was suggested that the Income Tax should be increased. We had an argument about that from one of the hon. Members who have spoken. That tax is very unpopular, because it was going to be taken from the rich, from the people who are in that Chamber and who would not have it at any price. If the Governor-General had had the pluck, shall we say, to certify the Income Tax the increase would have been paid by the merchant princes of Calcutta and the relatives of the hon. Member for North Battersea in Bombay and by other people who could very well pay. It is all very well for these hon. Members to say "We are already paying 9s. 6d. in India and you are only paying 10s. 6d. in England, and India is a poor country," but it is not, the poor who are paying the 9s. 6d. but the people who are rich, and the Governor-General would have fortified his high position if he had had the courage to certify the extra Income Tax to make up the deficit. That is where he make a mistake, not in certifying, but in 716 certifying salt. In my opinion this has had an unfortunate political effect for two reasons. First it demonstrates the impotence of the Assembly, it demonstrates the fact that the Assembly was as the Indians themselves said a sham. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] They could not stop it. The second reason why it was a mistake was that it put a very obvious weapon into the hands of the agitator.
Everybody feels the Salt Tax. It is not a serious tax, but everybody feels it. In every village there are people going round saying, "You are paying extra Salt Tax because the Governor-General certified it." Though the Price at which salt is sold to-day in Bombay is 3 rupees 13 annas and 10 pies per maund, or something like three farthings per lb. after the tax is imposed, yet the peasant in India buys the salt not by the pound but in quantities of two ounces or one ounce at a time, and for him the price undoubtedly will be doubled. You may say that this is done by his fellow countrymen, but it will be put down to the British Government. Unfortunately, the British Government has to take on its shoulders the odium of overriding the Assembly of India, and in this way you have gratuitously handed over a weapon to the agitator, who says that in every home in every village in India the British Government have doubled the price of salt. I may quote from one of the Debates in the Assembly. The reports of these Debates are most interesting volumes. I do not know whether Members of this House are acquainted with them. I think that they will be found in the cellars, and I gather that these Official Reports of the Assembly have not been used very much, for I had to cut them before I could read them. Captain Sassoon, speaking on the 19th March, in concluding his remarks, said:Therefore, Sir, I beg the Leader of the House with all the emphasis at my command to pause before accepting this new policy, if it he a new policy, of the Finance Member who, with the face of a cherub, and the methods of a tank, is more successfully, more expeditiously and more surely wrecking the reforms than the most enthusiastic and most optimistic extremist in his wildest hours could have ever imagined possible.That is the opinion of one member on the effect of the certification of the Salt Tax. It is essential, to my mind, that there 717 should be further retrenchment in India, even beyond what is proposed by the recent Inchcape Committee Report. As we all know, India is a country where there are cycles of special expenditure. It may be in seven years, or 10 years or five years or 14 years, but you are bound to get a famine, and with a famine you are bound to have a very largely reduced income and a very largely increased expenditure.
§ Mr. SIMPSON
I am afraid that the blame must be laid at the door of Providence. Unfortunately, the British Government in India cannot regulate the rain-fall. After doubling the Salt Tax we are just meeting normal expenditure. If we are going to reduce the Salt Tax next year, as is promised—for I consider that the words quoted by the Rt. hon. Member for Derby (Mr. C. Roberts) mean that the Assembly will have it open to them to remove the Salt Tax—then unless there are further retrenchments, in accordance with the recommendations of the Inchcape Committee, we shall not be in a state of financial equilibrium. It is admitted that taxation is far too high. Indirect taxation is very heavy. There is 30 per cent. on motor cars. There is very high Customs and Excise taxation. There is very high taxation on liquor. There is no direction in which the Government of India can secure increased revenue. That all points towards retrenchment.
There are only two directions in which we can look for retrenchment in India. One is the Army and the other the Civil Service. As to the Army, there has been retrenchment, but I would like to represent that our whole view of the British Army in India is wrong. Why is the Army there? It can only be for one of three reasons. It is either to hold India for us, in which case we ought to pay for it. That view is put clearly by one hon. Member. I think his view was that we had the British Army there in order that the country might be held securely. A second reason is that the Army is there to defend India from hostile attack from outside. Such attack would come perhaps from Afghanistan, possibly from Nepal, with a remote possibility of an attack from Russia. The Indian Army has proved itself equal to dealing with any 718 of these. When it is properly officered and disciplined, there is no army in the world of finer calibre than the native army of India. What about the Gurkhas and the Sikhs, the Bhopalis and the Dogras? These people's record in the War shows us that they are good enough to defend India. An army so composed is much cheaper than the British Army. The third reason—and this is the reason that has been given authoritatively in England—is that there shall be a reserve for the British Army. I may quote some words that were used in the Debate from which I have already read an extract. These words were alleged to have been spoken in this House. I have not been able to find them in our OFFICIAL REPORT, but it was not disputed that they were used in our Debates:If the War Office agreed to the Government of India making excessive decreases it would eventually mean further cost being thrown on the British Budget for making up the reserve in other ways.If the British Army in India is a reserve for the British Army at home, and is a reserve kept ready for use elsewhere, the people to pay for it are clearly not the people of India. If it has been kept in our interests, we are the people to pay for it, and it seems to me that this question requires investigation: "With how small a British force can you maintain peace in India in normal times?" That is what it comes to. And for that force make India pay. Anything above that force is a reserve for your British Army which, for your own convenience, you keep in India, and for that reserve the British Exchequer should pay.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last referred to the Indianisation of the Army. He pointed to the work as regards the Indianisation of certain regiments I think that one of the members for Bombay, who was discussing this question, pointed out that it would take 23 years before you would get one of these regiments Indianised. Are we to wait 23 years before we find out whether this scheme is a success or not, and then all they say that they are going to do is to introduce this method into other regiments? How long is it to take us before we have Indianised the Army?
I think that the whole principle of that method is wrong. What the Indian means by Indianisation is not that no one 719 but Indians should be in the Army, but that he is the equal of the European. I say that if you take the right Indian he is the equal of the European, and if you train him he becomes so. There are Indian friends of mine who are just as good as myself and other people. What the Indian wants is that his boy should be trained in the same way as your boy is trained; that, if he is going to be an officer, he should go into an Indian regiment and be promoted in the same way as our boys are promoted. In other words, he should be treated on an equality, without racial distinction, in the Indian Army. I think that is a perfectly legitimate claim and if the Indian can prove himself to be fit to take command of a British subaltern or a British captain, he should be allowed to do so. He should be allowed to come into the Indian Army, his own Army, the Army of his people, and take his place and be promoted in the normal course, without any objection from any English source, and if an Englishman objects, the Englishman is the man who might to come out, not the Indian. In that way you will also save money, which is what India wants, and you will be able to have a cheaper Army, which, for the purposes for which it is required, will be equally efficient.
I will take now the Civil Service, and I wish to reinforce the claims made on behalf of the civil servants. I had a letter the other day from a civil servant with 18 years' service. He is married, and has two children. He has sent his wife and children home, and he told me that he never expected to get home on leave again to see his wife and children. That is a lamentable state of affairs, and it is not one case only. That is the Indian Civil Service, the best paid Service of the lot. It is a dreadful state of affairs, and it does not make for good work. It is a matter for our Government and the Government of India, and it is one on which the Indian Members of the Assembly will be with the Government. The last thing in the world they want to do is to underpay the men who are doing their work, as they know, well and faithfully.
But when I say that—and I hope that relief will be given as quickly as possible, as there are certain reliefs the Government of India could give, such as pass 720 ages to men to whom leave is due, this year—I would also say that there is a difficulty ahead of us, to which the Government must keep its eyes open, and that is this, that in the Civil Service, looking ahead, we see one of two things. Either we are going to have a Civil Service manned by Englishmen and Indians, the Indians being overpaid, or we are going to have a Civil Service manned by Englishmen and Indians, the Englishmen being underpaid; because when we get down to bedrock it is certain that where you have to pay an Englishman 2,500 rupees a month, an Indian is in exactly the same position of comfort, with 1,000 rupees. Yet in the same Service you cannot discriminate. You cannot have this racial discrimination, and say that "A," a man with a white skin, shall get 2,500 rupees a month, and "B," a man with a brown skin, shall get 1,000 only. I confess that the way out is difficult to see. It may be that the Government of India will be able to give European allowances, and I have no doubt the Assembly would accept those European allowances, and as the number of Europeans in the Service decreases, so the Service will get cheaper and cheaper, and in time will doubtless be a Service the expenses of which the revenues of India can easily meet.
One is disappointed at the present attitude of Indians with regard to the reforms. Everywhere, if you are in contact with Indians, you hear that they are a sham, and it is difficult to see how they could be looked upon otherwise. The Diarchy was the product of a very brilliant brain, but no brilliant brain can introduce a system of government which can be responsible to two sides. That is absolutely impossible. You cannot have a system of government, one half of which is responsible to the electors, and the other half of which is responsible to the Secretary of State. It has been looked upon as a half-way house for 10 years, but it is not a half-way house. It is not a hovel, it is not a refuge, it is not a pied à terre. No, we have set our feet on a road where we cannot stop until we go the whole way, and the thing to which we have to look forward is the Indianisation of the Government of India at the earliest possible date at which it can safely be brought about. I do not think this diarchical system will work, because 721 no man, as is truly said, can serve God and mammon, and that is what you are calling upon every one of the Ministers in India to do. We try to do it, and we fail every time. We have to have a Government that is responsible either to the Secretary of State and this honourable House or to the electors in India. There is nothing between the two that will last, and I think the Government of India has to face that fact, and notwithstanding—
§ Earl WINTERTON
I think I ought to point out that, much as I should like to reply to the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Simpson) on this point, it is impossible to discuss, on the Estimates, a matter which would require legislation. He is now suggesting that the Government of India Act should be abolished, and I think I ought to make that clear.
§ Mr. SIMPSON
The Chair has allowed rue to go on, and I have taken the latitude which the Chair has offered, but it having been brought to my notice that I am not in order, I will not proceed with that argument.
One thing that has struck me is the delightful spirit, even when they have differed, between the various members of the Assembly and the Council. Reading these debates—and I wish hon. Members would read them more—one sees it everywhere, and one is very much struck with the ability of the new members of the Assembly, the way in which they watch the expenditure, the suggestions they make, and the way in which they appreciate the work that is undoubtedly given to them in full measure by the loyal European members of the Government of India. It is a very heartening thing to read those debates, and to realise that that feeling still persists, notwithstanding the acerbities of political life.
§ Colonel Sir CHARLES YATE
I am glad that I can agree with the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Simpson) on one thing, and that is in his condemnation of the system of Diarchy. I believe in a unified Government, and I cannot believe in a divided Government, as it is under this system of Diarchy. Let me say how very astonished I was to hear the hon. Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield (Mr. Ponsonby) 722 telling us in this House that we were exploiting the vices of the people of India on the question of opium. I have had a good deal of experience, and I quite agree that opium smoking is a very bad thing. I have seen a great deal of it in Persia, and I have seen men there reduced to utter wrecks by opium smoking, but the same thing does not apply to moderate opium eating, in which a great many people in India indulge. I have been out with them, shooting and hunting, and just as regularly as at four o clock we have our cup of tea, they have their opium, and it does no more harm to those men than our cup of tea does to us. To say, herefore, that we are exploiting the vices of the people of India in this matter is an absolutely misleading statement. Opium is considered a necessity in many parts of India, owing to malaria and other things, and I must disagree entirely with what the hon. Member said as to the harm being done by our exploiting the vices of the people of India. This question of eating a little opium cannot be called a vice.
I will pass from that, mid I do not wish to say much about the Salt Tax, but I agree with the heading we saw in a paper the other day, that this Salt Tax was a purely factitious agitation. To suppose that, after the huge rise in wages that has happened in the last few years in India, and the good harvests, and the cheaper food, an extra expenditure of one farthing per head per month is going to create great discontent throughout the country or have any effect whatever throughout India is simply a farce. Some years ago the tax was double and treble what it has been lately, and there were no complaints then, and we know very well that there is no complaint now. I have been watching the Indian papers on this subject, and I can quote one or two things which the Indian papers have said, The first article I was, I must say, rather amused at. It commences:The fatuous comments of the London 'Daily News' on the enhancement of the Salt Tax may provide encouragement for those Indian politicians who are asking that Parliament should intervene in the matter.
§ Sir C. YATE
I think it is the "Pioneer Mail." Another article says:So far as can be gathered in Calcutta, there is very little real feeling on the Salt Duty, but the usual methods of manufacturing public opinion are being applied.
§ Sir C. YATE
I think it is the "Pioneer Mail," but I will get the cutting, and show it to the hon. Member. Another paper says:The plain fact is that the public is not a bit interested either in the enhancement of the Salt Tax or in the lacerated feelings of the Assembly.There, I think, you have the real facts as they are in India on this question, but the great point is that the Government definitely invited the non-official Members of the Assembly to agree upon an effective alternative, and that they met, but failed to agree. The hon. Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Trevelyan) gave a long list of alternative taxes, which might have been put in force. He spoke of the Income Tax and the Super-tax, but these Members of the Assembly would not have them and would not agree on them, and the Viceroy then had to certify the Salt Tax. What was the real reason? As an Indian gentleman I heard of said, "The Salt Tax is a good bludgeon with which to beat the Government." There is the only reason for the agitation. There is an agitation going on against the Government, and the Salt Tax is a good bludgeon with which to beat the Government. The last reports from India that I have seen say that the vernacular Press contains no reference to the Salt Tax at all, and there is practically nothing going on in regard to it. There is one thing which I think is certainly of importance in regard to the certification of the Salt Tax by the Governor-General. An Indian paper pertinently points out thatin England, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer brings forward his Budget, he knows that it will be carried by the votes of his Party. The Finance Member of the Indian Government can rely on the votes of only 25 officials in a Legislative Assembly of over 140 members. Obviously, therefore, the Administration cannot be carried on without the reservation of special powers fat the Governor-General.724 I think that will bring home to hon. Members how absolutely necessary it is that this power of certification should be allowed to the Governor-General, and I need say nothing more with regard to the Salt Tax.
There is another point I should like to touch upon, and that is in regard to the present scandalous and tragic state of affairs in the Punjab. Not only is there marked bitterness and continued religious riots between Hindus and Mahommedans, but there is added to this the Akali agitation and religious riots amongst the Sikhs. I have hitherto looked upon the Sikhs as a brave and reliable people, forming the backbone of the Indian Army. They were our mainstay in the Indian Mutiny, but I am sorry to say that they have shown during this religious agitation that they can be carried away by religious fanaticism as much as any other people in India. The mistake I think originally made by the Government of the Punjab was in treating the shrines as the property of what we call the Abbots in charge of the shrines, and who, as far as I know, have no right in that property at all. All the ridiculous nonsense that went on as to the right to cut green wood for kitchen firewood in the shrines might have been avoided had the Government said that the trees belonged to the Sikh shrines, and the Sikhs could cut them or not as they pleased. The result is, things have gone from bad to worse and are going daily from bad to worse, and I am sadly afraid that very shortly we shall see the whole of the Punjab in a state of anarchy. All reverence for law and order seems to have gone, and even the administration of the gaols has been so weakened by continued concessions to what are called political prisoners, that the people talk of the gaols as though they were Swaraj temples, where tired agitators can rest and recuperate. The Council of the Punjab, composed mainly of Hindus and Mahommedans, have passed a Sikh Shrines Bill, but the Sikhs absolutely refuse to have anything to do with it. This question of the Punjab is so serious that something or other will have to be done. I do not know what the opinion of the Secretary of State on the subject is, but one suggestion I have made to him is that this disturbed area of the 725 Sikhs should be placed under Sikh rulers of their own, and they should be allowed to settle their own religious differences among themselves. Personally, I believe that to pass a law by Hindu and Mahommedan votes to settle differences among the Sikhs is an unwise thing to do. I believe the Sikhs would be far better able to settle their own grievances and their own religious differences among themselves if they had rulers of their own. That is one suggestion I made to the Secretary of State. Certainly something will have to be done, and I hope the matter will be carefully but quickly considered.
The question has been raised to-day as to the Indianising of regiments. As we know, eight regiments of the Indian Army have been Indianised, that is, Indians are to be appointed to them and are gradually to go on, until the whole of the officers of the regiments are Indians. Several difficulties have arisen. First of all the officers who have King's commissions and have been posted to these regiments have refused to transfer. I had a letter the other day from an officer of an Indian regiment. He said, a very nice young Indian fellow was posted to them, and the young British Officers received him with the greatest kindness and cordiality. He had been ordered to transfer to one of these eight regiments, but refused to go, and has resigned his Commission. It is not only that the Indian officers are refusing to join those regiments, but the men are refusing to enlist in those regiments, if they are to have only Indian officers. What is this claim for the Indianisation of the regiments? It is a demand simply and solely raised by the Legislative Assembly, composed largely of lawyers and non-martial races, who have no knowledge of the Army, men mostly who never served in the Army and never gave a son to serve, most of whom did nothing to help recruiting during the War, but often obstructed it, and yet these are the men who are clamouring for the Indianisation of the regiments. I think the Government made a great mistake. A class regiment officered by men of its own class might have a chance, but to post all these young officers to strange regiments, irrespective of class or race, to my mind, shows how very little the authorities of India know of the idiosyncracies of the 726 Indian sepoy. We have a lesson reported in this morning's papers. The Commander-in-Chief in India has directedThat, in view of the reluctance of Indian officers already posted to Indian regiments to transfer to the eight Indianising battalions, it will be necessary to wait for groups of young Indian officers finishing their year of attachment to British regiments in October and January next. These will be posted direct without option to Indianising battalions.Where is the voluntary system? Men are to be posted against their will to those Indianised regiments. That is the only way the Commander-in-Chief sees of getting Indian officers for them. I mention that because it is a serious question. I am absolutely in favour of giving a military career to all young Indians fit for it, but when you start a scheme of this sort, for goodness sake know the men with whom you are dealing, and try to make a scheme that has some common sense in it.
The spirit of disaffection is spreading daily throughout India. Take the case of the flying of the Swaraj flag. This was first brought about by a most unwise notification issued by the Governor of the Central Provinces in which he allowed the privilege of flying the flag in some places and not in others. The moment that Order came out, there was an agitation all over the country. Volunteers were called for from all parts, and people were sent up to the Central Province to fly the Swaraj flag in all places where it was prohibited, so that disturbance might be created and a breach of the peace brought about. There is another trouble of the same sort going on in connection with memorials. We are aware of the tremendous trouble there has been over the Lawrence statue in Lahore. Calcutta has followed with an attack by hired ruffians, with the Swaraj flag in one hand and a sledge-hammer in the other, to try to break up the memorial erected by Lord Curzon at his own expense, to mark the site of the Black Hole of Calcutta. Unless that agitation is watched, we shall see it extend all over the country, and probably attacks on every memorial in India will follow. I hope the India Office is giving attention to the matter. Then there is no control over the Press in India. The Press Act has been abolished—a most 727 unwise proceeding. It is stated in a British paper in India thatPublications by certain newspapers are carried on with an avidity which betokens either a total inability to distinguish truth from falsehood or a desire to use whatever material is available to slander Government servants.8.0 P.M.
I am very sorry that the Government has been so unwise as to repeal the Press Act. With regard to the Indian Services, memorial after memorial has been submitted to the Secretary of State, but nothing has been done. The last reply I received from the Noble Lord was to the effect that the Secretary of State would not even give the Services that for which they asked—some interim relief before the Royal Commission reported. Officers in the Civil Service in India cannot live on the pay they receive, if they are married men with families. Suppose that they resigned and came back to England. They could not hope to get employment here. There are 2,000 officers retrenched from the Army, 2,000 from the Navy and another 2,000 from the Indian Army, all seeking employment, and as long as these are unemployed it is impossible for Indian civil servants to come home and get employment in this country. Conquently they have to remain in India. But they cannot live on their pay. They are asking for some relief, but so far they have had none. The whole service is discontented. Indian civil servants have seen the civil servants in England get a bonus and increased pensions and pay, but they themselves have not received anything in comparison. Military officers in India are drawing less pay than officers of similar rank at home. The discontent and bad feeling aroused are the ruin of the Indian Services. I hope that the Under-Secretary of State will represent this case in the proper quarter, with a view of securing some alleviation.
§ Sir ROBERT HAMILTON
The Debate has ranged over a vast field and a great many diverse subjects have been brought out. That only shows how very desirable it was that extended opportunities for debate should have been given on this Vote, and that the matter should not have been left where it was when the Debate was adjourned on the 14th of last month. I intend to devote my few remarks to 728 one subject. I have never had any commercial or professional interest in India, and I wish to approach the subject from the point of view of a back bencher of the House of Commons, who has to discharge a very heavy responsibility in deciding whether he approves or disapproves of the action of the Viceroy in certifying the Salt Tax. There is involved here a constitutional question of very great importance. The question is not whether the action is within the law, for we know that it is provided for in the law. I attach importance to the matter because the question arises how is the law to be exercised? At the opening of the Debate the Under-Secretary of State used these words:The Viceroy's action is fully justified by the provisions of the Government of India Act.I would like to join issue with the Noble Lord on that statement. It can hardly be called the justification of an action because that action falls within the law. All of us know that many actions are taken which, while within the law, are unwise. Many instances will spring to our minds in past history and in modern events of what dangerous results may follow from taking action which may be strictly called within the law but which yet is not wise action. As to the certification of the Salt Tax, I am not prepared to say that it was right or wrong to decide that the tax was necessary. I am not concerned with that for the moment. It is very difficult for a Member of this House to inform himself in such matters. What I am concerned with is the manner in which the powers granted to the Viceroy under the Government of India Act were used. I have been in this House for only six months, and twice within that time the House has had before it the action of its Viceroy in India. As the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir T. Bennett) said, we all desire, as far as possible, to keep India out of party politics. That is my desire. At the same time, although one feels very great hesitation in criticising the action of our Viceroy, it should not prevent us from fearlessly looking both at the action that he has taken and at the results which may follow from it. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Simpson) in his most illuminating speech dealt with the dangers and difficulties of diarchy. I am a well wisher of reform in India, but I, like 729 others, have seen and felt the inherent dangers and difficulties of diarchy. But if we are to have the British Government brought constantly into play in its new relationship with India we shall not have diarchy, but triarchy, which will be a considerably worse state of affairs than diarchy.
The Noble Lord, in opening the Debate, compared himself, with some felicity of phrase, to a Derby dog. I am sure none of us would wish that the Noble Lord should have the meteoric career and the unhappy end of such a creature. I hope that an end may be put to any attempt to extend what is implied in the words "the interests of India." If the Viceroy of India is to be at liberty, whenever he pleases, "in the interests of India"—it may be right or wrong—to certify an Act over the head of the Assembly and to bring the matter before the House of Commons, the inevitable result will be that India will become a pawn in British politics—a thing most undesirable for India and most undesirable for home politics. I would like to draw attention to the dangers that appear to me to be the most prominent. In the first place, this House is, from the necessity of the case, not a tribunal which can easily decide matters of domestic finance in India. Again, this House, crowded as it is with business, cannot give the necessary time to go into Indian questions. The result naturally follows that these matters which are brought before it cannot be decided on the merits. The decision will be, and must be, in the nature of things, a party decision. The Government, naturally, is bound to support the action of its Viceroy. We presume that the Viceroy will not take such action as certifying a Bill over the heads of the Assembly without having previously consulted the Home Government. Therefore, the Home Government is bound to support the Viceroy. That is to say, it becomes a matter of confidence in this House. Suppose that an adverse vote was taken on such a matter in this House. What would be the result? The Viceroy would have to resign and the Government would fall. That is very undesirable.
Let me put another case. Suppose that intense political feeling were to exist in England over some subject, say liquor control, for example, in which the lines of cleavage ran across the party 730 lines. Suppose that advantage was taken of that, when the matter came before the House, to upset the Government. We can imagine such a thing happening, although "in the interests of India" it might have been extremely desirable that that Bill should have been certified. That, again, is a most unsatisfactory result to follow. India suffers. From the Indian point of view, they see that the Bill which has been passed over the heads of their own Assembly is sent, as it were, to the ultimate tribunal, the House of Commons. By the necessity of the case the Government is bound to support the Viceroy. Therefore, it is a case really of referring the matter to a tribunal which has made its decision beforehand. The Committee must realise that such dangers are very great.
There is a still further danger which should not be left out of our calculation. What is the result likely to be on moderate opinion in India if the Viceroy is to be supported by the existing Government—I do not care what Government it is, Conservative, Labour, or Liberal. What is the effect that that will have upon moderate opinion in India? I am afraid that it can have only the effect of making the Indians imagine that all our talk in favour of reform was a sham, and that their Assembly was a sham. Moderate opinion, which we desire to encourage, would be driven into the arms of the extremists. These are dangers which should not be lightly disregarded. I would ask the Government to give us some assurance that a limit will be put to the use of this power of certification. If the power of certification is to became habitual with the Viceroy every time he finds himself in difficulty it will be like the appetite growing by eating. He will fall back upon it every time, because it will open to him a way round the difficulties in his path. That would be most undesirable from every point of view. It is perfectly clear that the power with which the Viceroy has been invested should only be used with the most careful regard to the necessities of the case, and that there should be no relaxation in any shape or form of the meaning of the words "interests of India." I have no desire to vote against the Government in a matter of this sort, but unless we can have an assurance that this power will be strictly limited, I am not sure that I shall not find myself bound to do so.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I think the Committee, or what remains of it, should be reminded that we are to-night discussing the well-being of 320,000,000 people and a country of tremendous extent and great possibilities, with a civilisation much older than our own, with a knowledge and learning much more ancient, and with a culture which, in some respects and in some parts of India, is very much superior to our own. The hon. and gallant Member for Bilston (Lieut.-Colonel Howard-Bury), earlier in the Debate, said it was not right to bring the blessings—or the curses—of Western civilisation to the happy people in the uplands of India, and that all they wanted was to be left alone. The hon. Member for Tamworth (Sir P. Newson) told us of some of the privileges which capitalism had brought to the people of other parts of India, one or two of the things which he said are in passing worthy of notice. It is perfectly true that the standard of life in India is lower than in Europe generally, and, certainly, much lower than in this country. Our charge against capitalism in India is, that it is increasing the productivity of the Indian, by applying his labour to machinery and, at the same time, neither he nor his fellow countrymen are sharing to any large extent in the fruits of that increased productivity. You draw away from India, in the shape of dividends and rents, huge sums of money, which are spent not in that country but here and elsewhere, and it is that fact which the hon. Member for Tamworth did not seem to realise.
In our own country it is perfectly true that we criticise very severely the capitalist system, but our capitalists, in the main, live here and their dependants live here and their money is spent here. Years ago, a question often discussed in this House was that of absentee landlords by whom rents were drawn from Ireland and spent elsewhere. On an enormous scale we are doing that in India to-day. A further point, with which I expect the hon. Member for Royton (Sir W. Sugden) will deal, is that the introduction of capitalism into India, in cotton-making and other industries, has created a competition with Lancashire of which it is very difficult to see what the end is going to be. Speaking with very great deference, I hear that while the cotton industry in Lancashire 732 has been very slack, one trade which has been doing very well is the manufacture of cotton machinery for export to India. We are not going to get over the economic difficulty merely by saying that the Indians themselves are not to settle whether or not they are to have countervailing duties. We are not going to solve the problem merely by introducing capitalism and then demanding that we should have the right to control it irrespective of what the Indians themselves desire. Before very long we shall have Lancashire manufacturers joining with us in demanding that the Viceroy and the Secretary of State for India shall inaugurate legislation which will enable trade unions to be established in India and the standard of life in India brought nearer to the level which has been reached by British labour.
§ Earl WINTERTON
There are trade unions, and, in a gradual way, there has been an improvement in conditions. The movement has been gradual and progressive.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I was just about to say that trade unions have been established but only quite lately. I remember the first union being established and how glad some of us were at its establishment, but I would like to see Factory Acts and other improvements. The Noble Lord did not contradict the statement of the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) that nursing women are at work in factories and in mines. I was going to say that the manufacturers of this country will join with us in the demand, not only that there should be more combination among the workers of India, but that there should be such factory, worshop and mine legislation, as will raise the standard of life and the conditions of the people. Some day there will have to be, not only a national arrangement with regard to hours of labour and a standard of life, but we shall be obliged in self-defence to set up a universal and international standard of life and that is what the Labour side of the League of Nations is attempting to bring about. The drain from India to-day is not merely a drain of money, although it is represented by money figures, but is a drain of the product of the collective labour of the people. I think on political and economic questions India and ourselves are at the parting of the ways. 733 I cannot speak with the authority of the hon. and gallant Member for Melton (Sir C. Yate) who spent years in that country helping to administer it. I can only speak as an onlooker who has had something to do with our own politics during my life and who was always attracted to India because of the people with whom I was associated.
I have heard the late Mr. Fawcett in this House. I have heard Charles Brad-laugh, Mr. Caine, and all the men who were looked upon as members for India in their day. Looking at the question to-day, what strikes me is the similarity of the position to the position obtaining in 1879 in regard to Ireland. It may be remembered that just before the General Election that brought the Liberals to power in 1880, the late Lord Beaconsfield threw a sort of bombshell into the political world which, I think, showed his very clear foresight. It was in a letter addressed to the Viceroy of Ireland in which he asked everybody in the country to keep their eyes on Ireland. Something happened in 1880, not exactly, but somewhat similar to what is happening in India just now. There was a small Bill passed by this House called the Compensation for Disturbance Bill. That Bill went to the other place, and was thrown out by the Lords. Everybody who has studied the history of Ireland from that time to this, must, I think, agree that nearly all the evils that have come upon us in our relationships with that country really started from that one act of the other Chamber.
You have given India a very small measure of reform, and right at the outset, for one reason or another, you have taken action against it. I am not one of those—I hope I am a strong fighter for what I believe to be right, but I am not one of those who think that everybody who takes a line opposite to me is necessarily less honest than, I hope, I am, or less decent—but for one reason or another Lord Reading has, as it were, put a scotch in that small measure of reform, and I think it has thrown India into very much the same condition as Ireland was thrown into when the Compensation for Disturbance Bill was thrown out. The fact is that in India there are Indians, educated Indians, who are divided as to the speed with which they will get self-government. Nobody in this House can deny their right 734 to have it, because from the beginning Queen Victoria said:We have come to take charge of you in order that ultimately India shall be for the Indians, and shall be managed by the Indians for the Indians themselves.That statement has been repeated time after time, so there must not be any grumbling if Indians look forward to the absolute control of their own country. The Duke of Connaught, when he went to India, went with a message from the King, and told them, not in the actual words I am using, but in effect that this was the start of home rule, or swaraj. I am not given to pronouncing other words than those in our own language. The Duke of Connaught had two messages. In one of them, I think, these words occurred:The autocracy is dead.Not only that, but one of the Ministers, I think the Finance Minister, in a speech which I will not read to the House, but which, I believe, you will find in those Debates spoken about by an hon. Member, said in the Legislative Assembly:Now you have got the power of the purse. If you want to spend more money, if you want to give more salaries, you will be responsible except for some very small limitations.Those people in India who believed in getting self-government in a constitutional manner thought, when these statements were made, that the words uttered meant what the ordinary man or woman would think that they meant. There is another set of people in India who, right from the start, said: "These reforms are of no earthly use; we are non-co-operators." Somebody on the other side this afternoon said that we who sit on these benches joined in that. I am one of those who have taken some interest in this matter, and I telegraphed in my own name, and other of my friends also telegraphed, imploring our Indian friends to co-operate, and not to take the line that there should be non-cooperation. We felt, not that the reforms were all we would have liked them to be, but we thought it, was a beginning.
Both of these sections claim to be asking for a certain thing. They disagree as to how it is to be obtained. I think this action of the Viceroy has really knocked the bottom out of the constitu- 735 tional movement in India. The men who have said: "Let us work these reforms, let us take the Legislative Chamber, and do our very best with it." You have put them in the position that the other side can say: "Here you are, on a small matter like this, increasing the Salt Tax, you are not allowed to have your say at all." I sat through the last Debate, and I have sat through this, except for about 10 minutes, and as I have heard, there are two main arguments in this matter: one is that this Salt Tax, after all, was not very much and did not matter very much, and the other that it was absolutely necessary to save the credit of India. I think that even at the risk of having another deficit, Lord Reading would have been well advised to let this alone, as the hon. Member for Taunton said, for political reasons, and the political effect of his action. It has been said on the other side that, after all, the great mass of Indians do not matter. It was also said, what I think is true, that the position in many parts of India is very serious indeed. Another hon. Member said: "Let us have more resolute government; let us have more putting of the people into prison if they do not behave themselves." That sort of thing happened to Ireland after the rejection of the small Bill which I mentioned. It leads you nowhere.
The late Lord Salisbury, in the other place, once said that what Ireland wanted was 20 years of resolute government. She had that 20 years, and at the end we know what happened. We know that the terrible crimes would not have continued to happen if there had been a little more kindly consideration of the conditions which led people to do the things which brought them to prison. You are not going to restore good will, the good will that you have destroyed by this action, by putting more people in prison. You can only restore it by giving some kind of assurance to-night, as has been asked, that this power shall not be used again. If I were asked what I would do in order to preserve the credit of India, I would repeat something which was partially said a little while ago: When the deficit was much greater than now, as the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary told us in that very excellent statement—if he will allow me to say so—he made the other night, the credit of India rose, and I can- 736 not imagine any hurt from leaving this over for one year even, if only for the political reason. If the Viceroy had been well advised he would have done this, for that reason, and because of the mischief that, I think, his action would lead to. I hope that the Noble Lord and the India Office will not attempt to fall back on more prisons, but try to find some way of accommodation between the Viceroy and those who are so thoroughly against him on this particular question.
There are lots of other questions continually coming up. For example, there is the question of the Army. Personally, I do not believe in Armies, but if you are going to have an Army and balance your Budget in India, you ought to adopt the proposal to have an Indian Army, which would be much cheaper, because you would not have to bring the soldiers backwards and forwards to this country, and you would not have to transfer lots of money or money's worth to this country in order to pay the salaries wages and pensions of officials. From every point of view, the case for an Indian Army is unanswerable. First of all, the people, if they do want an Army, ought themselves to provide it, and when it is provided it ought to be all their own people, paid for by their own country, and the money spent in their own country.
I remember nearly all the wars waged with Afghanistan. The other Sunday I read the story of the first Afghan war. I believe we had at least four wars with that country, and now the Afghans are independent of ourselves and the Russians as well. We have no need of wars with them now. May I point out that a considerable portion of the Indian Debt has been caused by those wars. I know the answer will be that we are dealing with very fierce war-like tribes which may come down on India at any moment. Things being as they are, I do not suggest that you should lift yourselves out of India and leave the Indian people without any organisation, but your efforts should be directed to setting up an organization on Indian lines, and leave the Indians to determine whether there is any cause to go to war or not with Afghans or the border tribes. I do not think there is any question of British interests now involved in our relationship with Russia, Persia, or any other Power in connection with India, and it ought to be 737 purely and simply a question for the Indians to decide when war shall take place if at all.
I now come to the question of the Civil Service. I know that probably hon. Members opposite, and perhaps some hon. Members on this side, will disagree with me, but I think I speak here with as much knowledge as any ordinary Englishman on this subject, and perhaps a little more than the average, because I have had relationships with so many hundreds of Indians. Personally, I think they are perfectly capable of running their own Civil Service and administering the affairs of their own country. There, again, there would be an enormous saving. That has been admitted by those who make appeals for the Civil Service in India. There is no Member sitting on the Labour Benches who is not in favour of paying any English official anywhere a decent salary, although we might disagree about him being there, but while these officials are there you certainly ought to pay them decently, and remove the idea that an official cannot afford to come home on leave to see his wife and children until his time is up. I think that only proves that you ought to have an Indian Civil Service, the members of which live in India and spend their money there, and exchange their money for money's worth, so creating good commercial relationship between the Civil Service and the rest of the community.
There is just one other thing to which I want to draw attention, it is that £25,000,000 a year is paid in pensions by India. According to a Return furnished to me yesterday £14,000,000 of that comes here to England and is paid here. That is an enormous sum. I ask hon. Members to remember that fact, in view of the repeated statements in this House that India is such a poor country. That £14,000,000 means exactly that amount in goods of some sort or another. The money itself is of no account and it must represent goods in one form or another. That is another argument why the Civil Service should be an Indian Service at the earliest possible moment, and why the Army should be an Indian Army. I repeat that if you draw the substance out of a country in that way, what it really means is that you are impoverishing the country and making it increase its production, but you are not allowing it to share to the full that 738 increased production. We are at the parting of the ways in our relations with India. When it is said that you cannot impose Western ideas of democracy on the people of India, let us not forget that in Turkey the autocracy is abolished, that in Egypt, by our own volition we are establishing a sort of democracy, while in Palestine you are trying to set up a sort of democracy, and in Mesopotamia we are creating an Arab kingdom. You are trying to extend what you call democracy in all those countries. You can of course only do this where the people themselves demand and want democracy.
All the intelligent and educated people in India want this democratic form of Government and administration. You could not bring such a mass of Indian troops to Europe as you did during the Great War, you could not send out proclamations to India and other countries as you did during the War without creating a love of freedom in those countries which no amount of repression will put down, and which only goodwill will lead along the path of safety. We have a great opportunity now of bringing India in as a friend within the Commonwealth—I do not like the word "Empire." I have always felt that the British people in Africa, Australia, India or wherever they are ought to feel it their business to create a federation, loosely knit if you will, of the people under the British flag, not to dominate other people, but to lead the way for a true federation of the world. We talk a lot about the League of Nations. If we cannot have a League of free people under British rule, do not let us talk about a League of Nations outside British rule. Indians are kept out of Australia. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] You keep them out. You are going now to attempt to keep them out of Kenya. If they are to be members of the British Commonwealth they must come in as equal partners and on terms of absolute equality of their own free will without compulsion. I want the Noble Lord and his Department to so order British policy, both in regard to our Colonies and in relation to India, and also in regard to the transfer of the Civil Service of India to Indians, that the Indian people may realise that at last India, which has been one of the great dominions in the world that has not been colonised but has 739 been conquered and held down by brute force, is now going to be part of the one nation in the world able to give to a conquered people the right to lead their own lives. The whole world—humanity—needs all that India can give it on that side of life which relies more on philosophy and on thought rather than on the sword. I believe that the Hindu, the Brahmin and the Buddhist have a philosophy which they can give us and which we need. We can only take advantage of it, however, if we receive them as comrades and brothers in building up the new world. God knows the world is bad enough. We know, too, that if India were to break loose it would simply mean bloodshed and ruin for everyone. If we treat her decently, if we treat her people in a brotherly manner, as we ought to do, she will be a comrade with us, not for the purpose of dominating others, but for the purpose of helping to build up the federation of the world.
§ Captain BERKELEY
We have had a very interesting discussion on the internal affairs of India, and I shall make no apology for putting one or two questions to the Noble Lord who represents the India Office as to the policy of the Indian Government with regard to certain external affairs. The first matter about which I wish to question him is the policy of the Indian Government with regard to emigration. This is a very important subject, and, as it has not so far been mentioned in the Debate, perhaps I may be permitted to advance one or two considerations upon it. The position is really this: Some of our tropical Colonies want immigrants, others do not. At the present moment, paradoxically enough, the Indian Government is perfectly willing to encourage emigration to those Colonies which are not particularly willing to receive Indian immigrants, whereas in the case of Crown Colonies, which would be glad to obtain a free influx of the Indian population, the Indian Government manifest a certain amount of, to me, inexplicable unwillingness to allow that to be brought about. I will not refer to the case of Kenya, as that matter will, I am told, be debated in this House at an early date, but I would like to draw the Noble Lord's attention to the condition of a Colony 740 with which I personally am very familiar, the Colony of Fiji, the principal industry of which is the sugar industry. The mere mention of that Colony, I see, has evoked a, perhaps, pardonable notice from many hon. Members opposite. Fiji, no doubt, is a long way off, but the sugar industry is one of the most important industries of our Empire, and all sides are agreed as to the necessity of increasing the British Empire production of sugar. Therefore I am sure my hon. Friends will agree that any solution of the labour problem—and this is almost entirely a labour problem—that can be arrived at within the Empire is highly important to the general well-being of the Empire.
The position of Indian immigrants in Fiji is this. Formerly by arrangement between the local and the Indian Governments Indian indentured labour was recruited in India on a perfectly voluntary basis, and there was always a large response to the recruitment. I think we shall be on common ground in saying that there are always large numbers of people in India who are willing and even anxious to emigrate to new countries. About seven or eight years ago, after some rather protracted negotiation, the Indian Government prohibited that emigration. I am rather afraid that the prohibition proceeded in part from the fact that the political parties in India were making the question of emigration a pawn in the political game. That was very unfortunate, because the lot of the immigrant who went to our tropical Colonies, as is shown by the free coolie population in the Mauritius, is on the whole enviable. He served his indentures under conditions which may not have been ideal, but it would have been quite simple for the Indian Government to lay down proper terms on which the immigration should proceed. After the Indian immigrant had served his indentures he was given an opportunity of acquiring a piece of land, I think about five acres, on most advantageous terms, and he usually availed himself of it; or he could, if he desired, be repatriated to India. The fact, however, that the coolie population of Fiji recently numbered 50,000 shows that on the whole the Indian immigrant preferred to remain there. There is every reason why he should. He developed agriculture in a small way. As everyone knows, the 741 Indian is an extremely good business man, and it was found that Indians put up stores through the Island, and acted the part of small merchants and shopkeepers. All that has come to an end, and these advantages—these openings for the surplus Indian population, are going to the Chinese. That is a very unfortunate thing. The Crown Colonies are British possessions, and, while we do not wish to exclude the nationals of other countries, it is, surely, preferable that the advantages of a British Colony should be enjoyed by British people. This, in the magnitude of the issues we have been discussing in this Debate, is a comparatively small matter, and I will leave it there, but I very much hope the Noble Lord will see his way to consulting with the Secretary of State in Council, and, possibly, bringing about a resumption of emigration to those Colonies which are most anxious that that emigration should be resumed.
There is one other point of a quite different character to which I should like to invite the Noble Lord's attention. It was suggested to my mind by something that was said by the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). I think I am right in saying that India at present is a member of the governing body of the International Labour Organisation. She is certainly a member of that Organisation, and, I believe, is a member of the governing body. She is recognised, therefore, as being one of the principal industrial nations of the world. The question I should like to put to the Noble Lord is, Can he tell us what effect is being given by the Government of India to the conventions and recommendations that are reached and passed at the conferences of the International Labour Organisation—recommendations and conventions on such questions as hours of labour, age of entering employment, employment of women in certain trades, and minimum wages? I am not for a moment suggesting that it would be proper or desirable or necessary at this moment that the same standards should be applied in India as in this country, because, with all respect to the views of my hon. Friends above the Gangway who think otherwise, I think there must be an interim period. I do not think it is possible to raise the industrial conditions of a country like India to the same level as those of a Western country in a few years. It may 742 take generations. The point, however, that I should like to put to the Noble Lord is that there must be some standard and some raising of the level of the conditions of employment throughout the country. He mentioned, in an interjecttion during the speech of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley, the well-known experiment that has been made, and I would ask him, if it is not overburdening the notes which I see he has been so industriously taking during the Debate, if he could see his way to give us some information on this subject in his reply.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I only wish to intervene for a few moments to answer the first point to which the hon. and gallant Member referred. The Committee will realise that this is a matter which does not really concern the Government of India and the India Office directly. It is an external matter, and, therefore, with the permission of the Committee, and of hon. Members who wish to speak, I should like now to answer the hon. and gallant Member's point. I am glad to say, and I think the Committee in all quarters will agree with me, that it is a good thing that indentured emigration from India has been absolutely stopped. There is an Emigration Act in India, which places upon the Assembly the obligation, and gives it the opportunity of saying whether assisted emigration shall be allowed to any particular place. Free emigration is, of course, allowed, if the place to which the emigrants wish to go is willing to take them, but this Act gives to the Assembly the right to say whether or not assisted emigration should be allowed. If the hon. and gallant Member's friends in Fiji for whom he has been speaking will give the same opportunity and the same terms to Indians as are given, for example, by the Colony of Mauritius, the Indians will go there to-morrow. I myself have been trying, and my Noble Friend has been trying, for some time past, to arrive at an agreement with regard to this matter. We have not yet succeeded in doing so, but I hope it may be possible in the future. The only obstacle—naturally, I speak from the point of view of the India Office and the Government of India—in the way, is the fact that, at any rate until now, the people of Fiji who are interested have not satisfied the Government of India that the arrangements which they are making 743 for emigrants are such as the Government of India can accept.
§ Captain BERKELEY
As regards Fiji, it is, of course, really a matter for arrangement between the Noble Lord and the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, because the people in Fiji have nothing to do with it. Fiji is a controlled Colony with an official majority. It is entirely controlled by the Colonial Office, and the policy, therefore, must be directed by the Colonial Office.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Brigadier-General CLIFTON BROWN
My excuse for venturing into this Debate is simply that I spent ten years of my life as a soldier in India, and I owe to many Indian gentlemen and to many Indian civil servants many happy hours in that country. They catered for my sporting tastes in the jungle, and gave me the opportunity of learning something of India as it really is, not in the cities, but in the vast plains and hills of the North and South, the East and West. Many people go out there globe-trotting for six months of the year, in the pleasant season, and return and write books, and criticise as if they knew all about India. I have been told, however, that men who have been out there for ten years, as I was, only just learn enough to realise how little they know of the mentality of the numerous races and the many different kinds of people in that wonderful land. It is only men who have lived a lifetime in India, and who know what the heat and burden of the day means in the hot weather, who really can be said to know and understand the ideas and ambitions of the various Indian races. Being a soldier, I look at matters from the soldier's point of view, and I want to draw the attention of this Committee and the Government to the danger that, to my mind, there is in lessening the strength of the British Army in India at the present moment. I say at the present moment, because India has just been given the new Reform Bill, and it will probably be like pouring new wine into old bottles for a few years, until things have settled down. If you look at the internal conditions of India at the present moment, it is perfectly well known to hon. Members that in the Punjab various disturbances are going on, not against our rule, but of the 744 nature of religious differences between Mahommedans, Hindus, and so forth. It is only six months since the Moplah rebellion ended, and anyone who knows that part of India, with the tremendous heat, the great valleys and hills, and the difficulties which police or troops have in stopping a few evil-disposed persons, must realise that it is not fair to have a weak garrison, whether native or British, amongst people who may break out and give rise to sudden emergencies in that sort of way. In the Viceroy's letter in April, when he was discussing the Budget, he said that they knew they were taking grave military risks, and I think that must be acknowledged and remembered by everyone here.
As regards the external conditions of India, what has India to fear from outside? She has 1,500 miles or so of frontier to guard. It is quite true that three-fourths of that is occupied by friends like the Gurkhas in Nepaul, but there are those 250 or 500 very dangerous miles between Quetta and Peshawar. They have required in the past, and will require in the future, most careful guarding if business is to be allowed to go on, and if Indians are to be able to live in the rich plains of the Indus which they cultivate. Every one knows the incidents that have been occurring lately in the Khyber, when two British officers were murdered, and when Miss Ellis was adbucted, it was only through personal influence of that heroic Englishwoman, Mrs. Starr, that she was got back. That sort of thing must continue for some years. I am interested and glad to know of the new policy adopted by the Government in regard to the guarding of that dangerous bit of frontier. In the old days there has been a great controversy between the forward and backward policy. I am glad to say the Government are doing what is a sensible thing. They are consolidating the positions we have and making good in a sound way the military situation by constructing roads, and disposing of our troops so that if we cannot stop any raid—and, of course, we cannot—it gives us a very good chance to get the raiders before they go back. I do not know whether at present the Amir of Afghanistan is as kindly disposed to us as he has been recently, but I very much hope the Government will not only be able by 745 this new frontier policy to make conditions safe, but that they will also endeavour to make a proper extradition treaty with the Amir, under which the Amir and ourselves will reciprocally hand over people who have committed robbery and murder. I mention these two points of the internal and external conditions of India because in the reduction of our infantry battalions by 130 men in each battalion or any reduction in the Army at present, until these roads on the frontier are completed and the other measures are taken, as the Viceroy says in his letter, we are taking a grave risk.
May I say one word about the Civil Service? Of course I do not speak with any authority on the actual work of these different services but merely as a soldier who knew many of these men and found amongst them some of the finest men he ever met anywhere in this Empire. It is not only brains and cleverness which have enabled us and our civil servants not only to control tribes who are almost uncontrollable but to administer justice and to develop the land in the way it has never been possible to do before, but the character of the Englishman. There is a vast system of irrigation in the Punjab which is supervised by our English officials, leading lonely lives, sometimes with wives to share them and sometimes not. They are only too glad to see white men once a fortnight or once a month when a shooting party comes round. They stay year in and year out, except for their leave, doing their duty. It is, I suppose, the most wonderful irrigation system in the world, and it is all done by men like our civil servants, who stick to it year in and year out. I dare say hon. Members do not realise that there is more irrigation work in the Punjab alone than there is in the whole of Egypt. It is only fair to those civil servants who have done so much for India and for this country that we should see that they have not the grievances which the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir T. Bennett) has complained of.
Another point I should like to consider is what is public opinion in India and how can it be represented, by democracy or by what form of Government. It is easy enough to talk from books, but it is very difficult when you come to see a vast country like India, as big as Europe without Russia, which has 320,000,000 inhabitants, 100 different races, 746 and I do not know how many different religions. How are you going to get representatives of those various peoples into any Legislative Assembly and get a representation of the people themselves? You cannot do it without knowing the language, and that means many languages. I do not suppose in the Legislative Assembly the Indians themselves know even the language of some of those they represent. I am certain that representatives from Bombay if they went up North of Peshawar among the frontier tribes could only go there because they are under British protection. It is extraordinary when you think of the difference between the governing native States and those parts of India which we govern. I should like to give one instance to show the difference. I went round a prison in Cashmere with the Resident, who particularly wanted to see one of his men, who had killed another, while the Resident was away, because he wanted his wife. That man got seven years' imprisonment from the Maharajah's Government. We went on to see another man who had got 13 years for killingacow. The cow is a sacred animal and it is a more serious offence in Cashmere to kill a cow than to murder another for his wife. The difficulty is how to represent the public opinion of India when you have to deal with that sort of thing. Far the best way is to go on as we have been doing and make the Civil Service good enough for the very best we have and send them out, because I believe they represent in many ways the vast differences of opinions, races and creeds in India far better than the majority of Indians do themselves. I would far rather trust the Viceroy and his advisers in the matter of the Salt Tax or anything connected with the Budget than Indians themselves from this or that part of the country when it is so vast and when there are so many different races. We have put our hand to the plough in the matter of these reforms and we are never going to turn back. But I am convinced that the present is of all times the time to go slowly and consolidate what we have. The Government, I hope, will take a firm line and will adopt strong measures if necessary for the suppression of disorder and for carrying out, as we hope we shall always do, a policy of really conservative progress, and there has been no time in the history of India 747 when it could be better to have a real conservative policy for that country.
§ Mr. W. GREENWOOD
The members of the Committee who have listened to the Debate will have felt very glad that another occasion has been given for discussion of Indian affairs. There have been many interesting and informing speeches, not the least of which was the speech of the hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), which was not only very interesting but couched in very moderate language. In one instance, however, I think he went somewhat beyond the bounds of wisdom, when he spoke of himself as being an ancient. I hope he will be able to keep for a very long time the remarkable vitality which he so often shows in this House.
I speak particularly in connection with a trade which is very largely concerned with India, and that is the cotton trade of Lancashire. It has been remarkable that in all these Debates we have heard little or nothing of a trade which is so much concerned with India and with this country. The prerogative of the Viceroy in regard to the Salt Tax has been made a great deal about from the political point of view, and more than was really necessary. The question of the prerogative of the Viceroy is of very great interest to Lancashire. I am glad that the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary is present, because I wish to congratulate him on the very logical statement that he once made to Lancashire when they were asking whether the prerogative of the Viceroy could not be used at a time when a tax was to be placed on the importation of cotton goods into India. He said then, and I think quite rightly, that Lancashire must decide definitely as to which leg they were going to stand on; whether they were going to agree that India should have Home Rule and arrange its own affairs, or not. That was a very logical pronouncement, but I would suggest that, although in that regard it was very logical, it certainly is not consistent to say that the prerogative cannot be used when the interests of Lancashire in regard to India are so seriously prejudiced, and yet that it should be used in another way. We ought to have consistency.
The interests of Lancashire and India are identical. The hon. Member for Bow 748 and Bromley prophesied that Lancashire and India were at the parting of the ways. I hope very sincerely that there will never be any truth in that prophecy. I hope that Lancashire and India will always have the very friendliest relations one with the other, and if I can do anything to help from the point of view of Lancashire, I should like to do it. I should like to tell India that Lancashire realises that India's prosperity in a measure reflects itself on that of Lancashire. It is true that Lancashire in its cotton-spinning industry in particular has been going through, and is going through, very depressing times, and I can assure the Members of the Committee that there is many an out-of-work weaver and spinner in Lancashire who is asking to-day what is the matter with the Indian trade. Lancashire will be glad to know that India is improving in its prosperity. It is correct to say that. I have no great knowledge of India, but from the speeches that have been made one gathers that India is more prosperous to-day than she has been for the past few years. I hope she will continue to prosper.
In connection with the question of the reforms and the question of non-co-operation, Lancashire knows that when there was non-co-operation going on in India that that meant bad times for Lancashire. Lancashire is glad to know that the non-co-operation movement to a great extent has been done away with. We have heard of poor Indian people who would have been glad to purchase Lancashire goods, who have been prevented from doing so by those who were interested in what is known as the non-co-operation movement. Those who wish for reform will not encourage those reforms to be extended by adopting measures such as that—the forcible boycott of Lancashire goods. I am sorry to hear from the speech of one hon. Member that the standard of living of the Indian peasants was not being raised as much as it might be, for the reason that the Indians themselves were not so anxious to improve their standard of living as we might think they ought to be. He said that for three months out of the 12 they went on holiday. It is interesting to know that their conditions are improving to such an extent that they can afford to go away for three or four months in the year. I am not one of those who think that the prosperity of our cotton industry depends 749 on our producing goods absolutely at such a low price that they can be purchased in India no matter how the conditions are there. Lately, Lancashire goods have been produced and sold at a price below the cost price. I do not believe that it is essential that we should cut our prices to such a low rate that what is now the purchasing power of the Indian native can purchase them. Rather, I would like to see the purchasing power of the Indian native increased so that they can do more business.
There is a very much larger and broader question that will interest the people of India, just as it interests the people of Lancashire, and that is that India's best market for developing her products, in the main, is Europe. We are anxious to see the two great nations in Europe more amicably disposed towards one another, so that the trading relationships can be resumed between Europe and India, and the greatest factor in the prosperity in the cotton trade, the triangular trade between Lancashire, Europe and India, can be encouraged.
§ Mr. CHARLES BUXTON
I should like to add a word, as a Lancashire Member, to what has been said by the hon. Member who has just sat down. It is a mistake to suppose that the interests of Lancashire and the interests of the Indian peoples are necessarily irreconcilable one with the other. I will not admit that. In speaking to my constituents, I have never admitted that. I do not deny that conflicts may arise, but I believe that with proper handling of the problems on both sides, there ought not to be any irreconcilability. It has always seemed to me a very great and serious problem how we can get the people of this country to take a genuine and deep interest in Indian affairs. We all admit the difficulty of that. I welcome the fact that there is a commercial question which does bring us into touch with Indian affairs. It is a good thing that Lancashire should have this connection with India, and with Indian affairs, because at least there is a point of contact between the workers of this country and the workers of India. It may be at times a point of conflict but, at any rate, it is a point of contact, and it is something to start upon. I have found that when I have gone on to say to my constituents that I think we ought not 750 simply to regard India as a place to exploit in our own interests, but that we ought to regard India as part of our Empire, in which we ought to show a deep and sympathetic interest, I have always got a very cordial reception. The people, although they may not go deeply into the question, are prepared to go further than the mere trade connection or cash connection, and interest themselves in the Indian people.
It is somewhat presumptuous of me, perhaps, to make any remarks in this Debate, seeing that it has been a Debate mainly conducted by experts. I make no claim whatever to be an expert; I have been in India, but only as a globe trotter. On the other hand, I am not sure that the very fact of not being an expert is not a qualification for intervening in this Debate, because there is, after all, something to be said against an expert. I am not criticising any of those great experts who have spoken in this Debate. Personally I have listened to nearly all the speeches; and I have listened with absorbing interest. I should be glad enough, so far as I am concerned, that the Debate should consist entirely of speeches of that kind, but it is only fair to point out that, in having so much expert knowledge and so many experts speaking, we are a little bit in danger of not seeing the wood for the trees, and of getting too much embedded in detail, while the public outside is in danger of becoming persuaded that Indian affairs are too complicated and remote for it to take much interest in. That is a danger we ought to avoid, and possibly it is necessary for a few non-experts like myself to plunge in audaciously, and to blurt out, so to speak, very elementary propositions, and to try to look at the question in a way somewhat more broad if more elementary than the expert and highly-detailed examination which we hear in the House.
Some of the speeches to which we have listened, such, for instance, as that of the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury (Brigadier-General Clifton Brown), are speeches of a type which also, it seems to me, are a little bit undesirable, from the point of view of interesting Members of this House and members of the public. I say that for the reason that, interesting as they are, those hon. Members come before us as the men on the spot, or as the men who have been on the spot, and 751 they suggest to us that the subject is so exceedingly difficult, or so absolutely impossible of handling for anyone who has not lived in India for 30 years, that we had better let it alone altogether and leave it to somebody to carry on the business who knows all about it. That may or may not be true, but it is not a view which is likely to interest the people of this country in the affairs of India, because the affairs of India are presented to them as something perfectly beyond their grasp, and therefore presumably not worth taking much interest in, or concerning themselves very much about. This doctrine of the man on the spot is, I venture to think, carried a great deal too far. If it were carried so far as some hon. Members would have us carry it, the House might as well give up discussing Indian affairs altogether, and concern itself no longer with them.
If we look into the past, and look at the relations of this country and this Parliament of ours with India and the Indian people, the one thing that has distinguished this country, and this Parliament, and this House in particular, from other countries and other governing bodies is that we have not left it entirely to the man on the spot. It is that we have insisted on interfering—I use the word "interfering," dangerous though it may be—from the time of the impeachment of Warren Hastings downwards. We have said: "The man on the pot is not the man to whom we can entirely leave this matter. We have our responsibility and our part in the business, and we must see that we play our part as best we can; ignorant or not ignorant, we must endeavour to form some conception of it for ourselves." The man on the spot in India is not necessarily the man, though he may have been there for a very long time, who can take the broadest and most general view of Indian affairs, because the question is, What spot was he on? As the hon. and gallant Member for Newbury pointed out, the outlook and the conditions in one spot are absolutely and entirely different—I think that he even overstated it a little—from the outlook and conditions in another spot. Therefore, unless a person has been in all the different spots, or a great many of them, he cannot take that single, unified, connected view of affairs which 752 is necessary from the point of view of criticising the Indian Government.
After all, we have undertaken a task in India which is one of a very peculiar kind. We have not undertaken to manage the detailed affars of every little spot, but we have undertaken, on a vast scale, to conduct the Government, more or less unified, of practically a whole continent, or what is almost equivalent to a continent. We have undertaken to do it on a broad and general scale, and if you are going to do your Government on a broad and general scale like that, you must take broad and general views, and you must not confine ourselves too much to the particular point of view of a particular spot. There is another criticism I venture to make of the man on the spot, still speaking with great respect of those hon. Members who have given us the benefit of their experience. That is, it is one thing to be the man on the spot, but it is not quite the same to be the man who was on the spot 20 years ago. That is a very different point, and I notice that one or two hon. Members repeated very strongly what we have so often heard about the unchanging East. All the talk about the unchanging East always seems to be a little bit too general and too theoretical, especially as applied to the India of the present day. It is rather an exploded idea that the East is the unchanging East. The East of late years has changed, and sometimes has changed with startling rapidity. Even the Chinaman has given up his pigtail in an extraordinarily short space of time—at any rate in regard to a considerable portion of the Chinese—a thing which 20 or 30 years ago would have been announced as a typical example of the unchanging East. Things in India, so far as I am able to follow them, have changed very rapidly in the last 10 years; so rapidly that the status of men in certain localities have altered almost beyond recognition; and the experience of hon. Members or others who spent years of their life, a considerable time age, in those areas, are not necessarily a guide, and may be a dangerously-misleading guide, to the condition of affairs in India.
I believe the change has been very rapid, indeed. There is one other point, which I give as a warning, as a caveat to be applied to our Indian Debates, and 753 that is, that there is not only one particular man on the spot whose opinion we might take, but in all these grave questions there are many different men on the spot who take entirely different points of view. In saying that, I am not thinking only of the actual native—the indigenous people of the country who, also, be it remember, are the men on the spot. Often among our own countrymen who have been there we have the most diverse opinions among the men on the spot, and it is still reserved to us to exercise our judgment between the various opinions of the various men on the spot. Therefore, it comes back to a matter of our own judgment, and we, ordinary Members, non-experts, must, somehow or another, if we are to discharge the duties for which we are sent here, to form some kind of judgment ourselves on these great affairs.
Judging by what I have read of Indian Debates in the past, there is a growing interest in the question in this House, and a greater reality in the sense of responsibility which is here felt. It used to be, I understand, that there was every year one, and only one excursion, described, I think, by the Leader of the Opposition, in something that he wrote, as the "Annual saunter through the Indian Budget," occupying one day, or a portion of a day. This year we have had two excursions, something more than saunters, careful thorough debate, and I do feel that we ought to be regardful of the responsibility of this House and of Parliament in general for the Government of India. I believe that in the critical transition times through which India is now passing, and in the difficulties, the greatness of which we all recognise, it is, above all, important that this Parliament should not be persuaded by the men on the spot, or those who profess to speak for the men on the spot, to abrogate its responsibility, and ought not to be frightened by this superior mass of expert knowledge, on the part of the few, from taking the part which it ought to take, which, historically, it has taken within certain limits in the past, and which it ought to take more than ever now in making up its own mind and forming its own judgment and retaining its own control for the development of these great Imperial responsibilities.
§ Mr. BANKS
I venture to offer a few observations to the House with some degree of trepidation because, as the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. C. Buxton) has said, this is a Debate in which we have had men giving us the experience of a lifetime in India. I have not had the experience of a lifetime in India, but perhaps I know a little bit more about it from the experience which I have had than many hon. Members who have shown so much solicitude about the Salt Tax, though I doubt whether, if they found themselves in India, they could ask for salt for their breakfast egg in any known Indian dialect. The hon. Member for Accrington said that he was not an expert on the subject and took a broad view of the whole question of our future in India. If all those gentlemen who are not experts, through practical experience in India, did exercise that same—if I may say so—insight and philosophy and breadth of mind upon this question I think that we should have a great deal more to guide us than we have in the present House of Commons.
Of course the man on the spot is undoubtedly apt to accumulate prejudices, and I do not suggest that we should be ready in this House to accept all the inferences that he draws and all the conclusions at which he arrives from his experiences. My suggestion is that hon. Members opposite, who are not themselves familiar with India in their own experience, should be ready to consider with great respect those facts which a man on the spot brings home and puts before this House, and give him credit for knowing those facts, and then form their own conclusions, to a certain extent, for themselves. Unfortunately I think that there are a great many hon. Members in this House who are not even ready to accept the facts that are offered to them, and if they are not prepared to rely to some extent on the expert for their data they may be quite sure that they are not likely to arrive at any valuable conclusions.
The hon. Member for Accrington questioned the value of experiences which were acquired as long as 20 years ago in India, and he seemed rather to sneer at the well-worn suggestion that the East is unchangeable. Believe me that the East, India at all events, seems to have changed very much in the last 20 years, but the 755 change is only a superficial one, and only affects a very small portion of those hundreds of millions who inhabit the country. The East is unchangeable, even in the case of the individual. Drop into a restaurant, say in the neighbourhood of the Law Courts, and see a young Indian student having his dinner there. Address him courteously in his own speech. He is a very enlightened man. He reads Anson on Contracts. He knows all about British constitutional law, and he is probably eating beef, and he will jump when he is suddenly addressed in Urdu, and asked whether he is a Hindoo, and if so, why he is eating beef. Believe me that when that man gets back to India he finds himself in a very peculiar situation.
If one of our friends went to live for five or six years in the Cannibal Islands, and got accustomed to the dietary of that locality, however much we may value him, we should find a sudden repugnance when he sat down at our table. I feel that that is very much the situation in which many of these young gentlemen find themselves when they go back to India, and it accounts for the curious views which they hold. Having dissociated themselves in part from their own people and their own views and their own culture and creed—far be it from, me to call any man's religion—when they go back to India they find themselves neither good Europeans nor good Asiatics, and that is where a good deal of the trouble arises. There one finds the East still unchangeable, and while one dresses in European clothes and makes allusions to European law, his own religion and his own family associations call him, and he goes back to them both in practice and in his desires.
I wish now to make a few observations on the Indianisation of the Army. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Simpson), in an admirable speech, spoke about the reasons for keeping our Army ill England. He asked whether the Army was to hold India for us, or, alternatively, whether it was to defend India from the invader. I do not think that either of those alternatives is necessary. The reason which we have to accept, I believe, is that we have the Army to hold India for the Indians themselves. I will not say that I have the experience of a lifetime on the one hand or the superficial experience of the cold weather tripper on 756 the other, but I have been there long enough to see that from time immemorial there has been the fundamental conflict of races and creeds in India, which made India a land of anarchy, rapine and desolation before the British Government went there to deal justice impartially. Mention was made of the extraordinary number of days on which people in India keep holiday.
If you happened to be in Lucknow on the festival of Mohurrum you would see processions of Mahommedans, in honour of Hassan and Hussein, carrying the shrines called tazzias. The people call out, "Ya Hassan! Ya Hussein!" and "Din! Din!"—that is, "the Faith"—and then the old religious antagonism breaks out, and perhaps some Hindoo throws a brick at a shrine. What is going to happen? You have Hindoo against Mahommedan, with all their religious passions aroused. I do not say that either is wrong. They are both faithful to the views which they hold. There is a telephone message sent to the barracks. Thomas Atkins is called down, and with that curious good nature of the British soldier, usually in combination with the respect which has got to be paid to him from the point of view of force, he keeps the two peoples apart, and when the weary commissioner or weary captain goes home in the morning he thanks God that no Indian blood has been shed. That is one of the reasons why the Indian Army is there.
That is one of the reasons why the Army is there. Another reason is this, that if those peaceful, prosperous, sagacious, commercial communities in India are to have the opportunity of doing as they have done in the past, as the community of that ancient and honourable race represented by the hon. Member for North Battersea has done in the past—only 100,000, or thereabouts, of the Parsees in the Bombay Presidency out of 315,000,000 people in India—they need protection. Through these long centuries they have grown prosperous and progressive, and why have they done so? Thanks to the fact that an obscure institution called the Indian Frontier Force has been between them and the Waziristan, Mahsud, and other wild tribes on the frontier. That is another reason—not to defend India from European adversaries or Russian invasions, 757 but from this frontier menace—because when I had the honour of serving in the Indian Frontier Force for three years it was blazing up here and there, and it has done ever since, and it requires the interposition of well - trained and courageous men to keep the commercial and intellectual classes of India safe to carry out that destiny which some day, I am confident, they will do. Those are two reasons for the maintenance of the Army in India.
Far be it from me to disparage the qualities of the classical regiment in which I had the honour to serve, namely, the Gurkhas. Of course, they are courageous men, and, of course, they are excellent troops, but when it is said they are equal to British troops, that is to express the thing badly. It is well known that when we got to active service—and there, if I may say so, I speak as the man on the spot—when a brigade went into action, Indian troops would, and did, behave with the utmost courage and the utmost possible valour, but in most cases it was considered necessary, and it was necessary, to season that brigade with at least one battalion of British troops, who possessed a more phlegmatic and dogged temperament. In such cases it is not a question of equality at all. The use of the word "equality" in that connection is most misleading. It is a question of the peculiar aptitude of certain people for peculiar tasks. There were many Indian officers in my own battalion who were superior to me—I do not say equal, but superior—in all manner of qualities. I think in physical endurance certainly, and in a certain kind of wonderful intuition for the lie of land and in knowledge of their own business—because, of course, they were professionals and I was an amateur—they were my superiors.
I would not like to call myself their equal for a single moment, but whereas they were my superiors in those qualities, any British officer, I do not care how much experience he has or where he comes from, has qualities that every Sepoy and rifleman in his regiment recognises as the necessary qualities for leadership and organisation. In any Indian regiment it is the British officer who stands for equality, and not the Indian officer. Take even the caste regiments, where the men all come from one nation. They are not many. The 758 Brahmin regiments are caste regiments, the Gurkha regiments are caste regiments; they are not intermingled with natives of other races and creeds; but even there does anybody suppose that the man who comes from the noble class could eat or sleep, drink or smoke, with the man who comes from the Sahi class? When I was mess secretary it was my duty to pay the sweepers. I had not the slightest repugnance in putting the rupee into the sweeper's hand, but if I gave that money to my subadar, and asked him to pay the sweeper, he flung it on the ground and said, "Take it up yourself," because he could not be defiled by that man's touch. I am not saying he was wrong, but I do say that the British officer stands apart, and that it is his influence in the Indian regiments and in the Indian army that prevents the high caste man—and every officer must be a high caste man in any Indian regiment you like to mention—from leaning towards those who are nobly born like himself and being too hard upon the sweeper and the Sahi.
You may have an Indian regiment completely officered by Indian officers. The experiment is being made, and I think we ought to hope for the best and work for the best in that matter. Again, you may have a battalion completely officered by Europeans. But it is impossible, in my view, to have any regiment in which half your officers are Europeans and half Indians, for this reason: We know very well that the mess is a kind of sacrament. There is a certain esprit de corps. Men know one another there in their hours of relaxation, when they are dining together and having their guest nights, and they must know one another if they are ever to stand in the stress of battle, but, unfortunately, the Indian officer, not because he is inferior, perhaps because he is superior, must have his mess to himself, must, eat apart from us, and live apart from us, and have his family and everything else apart from us, not because I despise him or think he is my inferior, but because he thinks he is polluted and insulted if I ask him to come down to the mess as a Mahommedan, when there is pork on the table, or as a Hindu when there is beef on the table. Is it possible to expect a battalion to stand solid in the day of battle and in times of stress when the officers are bound to be in many respects, Indian and Euro- 759 pean, divided from one another by gulfs so great?
The Noble Lord, in that very remarkable speech of his, in which he covered so much ground and appealed with such tact and such diplomacy to all shades of opinion in this House, said the attitude of Members here was apt, with regard to the reforms, to divide itslf into two camps. There were those, on the one hand, who said, "Now that Mr. Montagu is no longer with us, all this nonsense will be instantly abolished"; and there were men, on the other hand, who said, "The miserable little thing that has been offered to us is a gross betrayal and a satire upon all the grandiose promises that have been made by Great Britain to India." There are persons of a more moderate temperament, and perhaps, I may say, I am one of them. I did question, I am obliged to admit, the prudence of the reforms, not because I have lived a lifetime there, but merely because I went out there and stayed there for three years, with an open mind, seeing the thing more or less for myself, half-way, if I may say so, between the experts, on the one hand, and the members, on the other hand, who remind one of the phrase:Where ignorance all day long delivers judgment unashamed.But these reforms were passed, and I am perfectly confident that there is not a Member on that side of the House or on this, not though he may be the most fossilised old oriental that ever gave us reminiscences in this House of Commons, who does not ardently desire to see these reforms progress, to the good both of India and the Empire.
Is it true to say that, if there has been any failure on the part of the new system, it has been due to lack of good will on the part of the British on the one hand or of the really enlightened Indians on the other? Of course, it is not. If there are defects—and many have been pointed out this afternoon—they have been due to the mischievous and poisonous activities of Mr. Gandhi, and the brothers Ali, and the Sikh fanatics, and the other gentlemen whose every word is taken for Gospel truth among a certain section of hon. Members opposite. There is the class that has ruined—or I will not use that unfortunate word "ruined," but which has impeded the normal progress of—these reforms, and 760 the less we listen to them the better. I was amused when the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) came out with that long string of Indian names. I do not know half so many of the Indian politicians and the Indian intelligentsia as he does. He was most glib on the subject. On my heart are inscribed many names too, but they are names of Indian peasants and Indian soldiers.
It is to those men that we must look, and not to that fatal will-o'-the-wisp which these other persons are holding up to draw us all into a morass. The spirit is going on now. Mr. Gandhi urged non-co-operation. He said, "Have nothing to do with these things; they are unworthy of you." He has been, for the time being, disposed of, but his successor, Mr. Dass, is now adopting another policy, and he is saying to the world, "Men of India, get you on the Council; be appointed by the Indian electorate"—5,000,000 out of 315,000,000—"go there as a representative of the country, and when you have got in, bring those institutions into discredit, impede them, obstruct them, and wreck these reforms deliberately." If anybody can suggest a more perfidious and a more mischievious policy than that, I should be glad to know what it is. I still am in touch with friends in India who are working very hard for what, I think, is the right thing, and that is that Englishman of good will—one only needs to look at our record in India for the last 150 years to know that there is no lack of Englishmen of good will—to go there, and with Indians of good will combine together to make those things a success.
One other observation I did want to make was this. The Government of India Act, 1919, contains more provisions than one, and the class of Indian politicians to whom I have alluded seem to think that they are within their rights in keeping to all those parts that are agreeable to themselves, and entirely neglecting all those other parts, which are no less an essential part of the contract. All the promises upon which these reforms, and future reforms, are based, are promises on the part of this country to do all that we can to give to every native of India a fair opportunity of realising his value in the Government of his country. From the earliest Victorian times down to the last, as I read them, 761 they are conditioned upon the willingness and aptitude of the Indians to make use of them. It is part of the Government of India Act, 1919, that at the end of 10 years, the Statutory Commission shall meet, and the whole question of these reforms has to be considered and a decision pronouncedwhether and to what extent it is desirable to establish the principle of responsible government, or to extend, modify or restrict the degree of responsible government then existing therein.10.0 P.M.
I venture, modestly, to suggest that we have shown—and wisely shown—a sincere desire to facilitate the progress of Indian reform, but we ought to say to the people of India, "Make you the best of them, show your aptitude for using them; let us have real proofs that you are going to co-operate"; not merely eloquent platform speakers, but those many Indians who know something about practical affairs—"if you do that; if you help to make them a success, then the Report of that Statutory Commission will be for further progress. But if you are going to act in the future as you have done since 1919, to obstruct, impede, and do everything you can to bring our generous offer into contempt, then the Report of the Statutory Commission will be that we have got to have reaction in this matter." When we do come to deal with the aptitude of the Indians for self-government, may I say that it is somewhat discouraging to observe the example of political talent which has been displayed in one instance in this House this afternoon. I must say that I was quite astonished to hear the Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) say, "I am an Indian extremist, but I have no bitterness in my heart." I am perfectly prepared to accept the first proposition, but I must say I find myself entirely unable to accede to the second. The hon. Member for North Battersea comes, as I say, from an ancient, an honourable and a prosperous race, which has very little excuse for sneering at capitalism, which has very little excuse historically for saying much about private enterprise, which, to anyone who has seen the golden harness of the Parsees in the main streets of Bombay, and their employés in the back streets of Bombay, has hardly any right to say anything about the condition of 762 these people. He has hardly any right to say he represents India; he represents admirably his own section. He says he has no bitterness in his heart; that is the moderate, statesmanlike language he employs in debate in this House. He uses altogether different language when he contributes to the "Workers' Weekly." This is how he writes:
Dear Comrade Duffy,
I have your letter of the 4th instant. The British Empire is made up of the aristocratic and cunning 'dirty dogs' of Great Britain who will assail anyone's country any time. The British Parliament's chief function and purpose of existence is to maintain intact that Empire, and to retain all the stolen property, and to keep under bondage all the bullied nations. … I trust you will understand the reason why I am unable to give effect to your resolutions.
Yours, in sorrow and distress,
Another conquered subject,
(Signed) S. SAKLATVALA.
§ Look at last week's admissions to the Middle Temple and Gray's Inn. Half of them are members from the hon. Gentleman's country. Go and have your dinner at one of those Inns of Court, and you will find innumerable compatriots of the hon. Member sharing your dinner, and here he sits in this House, no objection being taken to him at all, when he voices opinions which are not only subversive of Government in India, but subversive of Government in this country, and subversive of Government in any country, as many of his colleagues well understand. He says in effect that India is to be governed much better without the Indian Civil Service, without the Gurkha Rifles, the Frontier Force; India is to be governed without the Councils, and, so far as I can make out, by the Moscow Internationals. There has been only one speech made in this House—unless hon. Members say mine is another—which, in my opinion, was both disingenuous and ridiculous, and that was made by the hon. Member who has the temerity and hardihood to say he represents India.
Mr. J. RAMSAY MacDONALD
The Committee to-day has been treated to an unusual number of extremely interesting speeches, and those speeches have come from both sides of the House. It has been a great pleasure, indeed, to anyone interested in India to listen, for instance, to speeches like those delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for Bilston 763 (Lieut.-Colonel Howard-Bury), the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Sir T. Bennett), and on this side of the House by the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Simpson). They were all reminiscent, and they were all profoundly interesting. They did not make the mistake that the last speaker made, of being so autobiographical that he ceased to remember that he was dealing with the whole of the Indian problem. As has been truly said, this House, whether it is expert or amateur, has to take a very large share of responsibility for the government of India. Are we quite sure that we approach that responsibility and that problem from the right angle? My hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. C. Buxton) referred, for instance, to the expression that has been used a good many times in this House to-day, "the unchanging East," and he quite rightly challenged the accuracy of that statement. My last visit to India was only a few brief years ago, but, really, as I keep up my connection with Indian newspapers week by week, I am not at all sure but that I am as much out of contact with what is the life of India now as I am out of contact with the pre-Victorian states of mind and political visions of this country. There is nothing more amazing than the tremendous change that has taken place in Indian public life. The superficial critic says that the masses have not changed. The man who eats beef here, listens to the call of the East, goes back, and is oriental. What nonsense! The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House may talk; he may claim his own superiority, as he did with such magnificent courage to-night.
I am not accustomed to misrepresenting hon. Members. I was referring to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman about the Hindu who eats beef here. Whether we like it or not, what is the use of hon. Members saying, "Let us close our eyes to these problems; let us go on as we were going on. The simple reply to this is that you cannot, because you have done these things, because you have educated generation after generation of Indians—it may 764 be a very small selection of Indians, but never mind. It may be that these Indians, out of the whole mass of the Indian population, number only a million or two millions. It may be, but nevertheless, what folly it is for a great governing body like this, responsible for the peaceful settlement of all the complicated problems of a varied Empire, to say, "We choose to treat these problems as if they did not exist, and we are going to fulfil our responsibility as if there was nothing in India except an obedient peasant population." The East is changing. As a matter of fact, if hon. Members prefer to maintain the proverb, for tradition's sake, all that happens is that India is no longer the East. India is a mingling of the East and the West, and the problem of Indian Government is not the problem of the Government of a purely oriental people, but the problem of the government of a people consisting of pure Orientals, plus Anglo-Indians, Eurasians, pure perhaps in blood, but mixed in mind, in philosophy, in spiritual contacts and in moral vision. That is the problem, and it is nothing more simple than that. I would congratulate the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary of State with the heartiest pleasure, and I am sure that he would accept my congratulations with equally hearty pleasure, if these complicated problems were not so very much to the forefront.
We have heard several times to-night that we ought to go slowly and ought not to accelerate reform. I quite agree. But again this House has to measure how far the reforms are accelerating themselves. That is the real problem of Indian Government, so far as reforms are concerned. We had the Morley reforms. Lord Morley said here:I am introducing a Measure which is no preliminary to a wider reform of democratic government. If it were I should not make myself responsible for it.The Morley reforms were hardly in operation when it was found that they had to be supplemented by something wider. These changes have a momentum, an evolution and a pace of their own. The question I put to the Government is: Are you keeping pace with the pace of the reforms themselves? If you are, you are wise. If you are not, if you are going too slow or too fast, you are foolish. The whole problem that the Government has to solve is the keeping pace with the 765 reforms, and seeing that they do not accumulate grievances which will become dangerous from a political and constitutional point of view. There are many things to be said about India and, as have already said, the most interesting aspect of Indian politics is its rapid change, but I can only deal with one or two separate points because the time left to me confines one to doing that rather than delivering a carefully constructed and reasoned speech.
First of all, there is the complaint of the civil servants. I associate myself with that. One of the most interesting pieces of work ever given to me to do was to take my part in a Royal Commission which investigated the public services of India just before the War. So far as the Indian civil servants were concerned I went there with an absolutely open mind. I went north, east, south and west in India and heard evidence from picked servants, both Imperial and provincial, and after three years listening to that evidence, after three years discussion with my fellow members, I came away firmly convinced that we ought to send the very best men we can get, whilst we send anybody there at all. Far better have nobody at all than a number of discontented second-rate men bearing the responsibility of our Indian administration. I do not say that because we have got second-rate men. We certainly have not. No one who has come into personal contact with the splendid work which these men, especially the district officers, have done in India can do anything but strain the powers of eloquence to find appropriate words equal to the praise they deserve for the work they are doing on our behalf. But they are discontented. I should like, had I been able, to go into more detail, but I cannot, and I rest content with saying that the material lot of these men must be very substantially improved if we are going to keep them contented and enable them to keep their hearts constantly in the exceedingly important work with which they are charged.
Then there is a question which has not been dealt with to-day and which I believe is going to be dealt with more definitely on the Colonial Office Vote, namely, the question of Kenya. It should not be passed over without reference in an Indian Debate. All I would say is that the wise man is the objectively- 766 minded rather than the subjectively minded man, and there is the objective problem in front of you. We have taught the Indians the value of British citizenship; we have sent over there our own best literature on the subject. It is all very well to laugh at those men reading this book and that book upon our Constitution, but we have encouraged them to do it. We told them to do it. In the Indian Universities and colleges we have prescribed Burke and Macaulay, and we have encouraged them to read John Morley as he was, Lord Morley as he is. I think it ill-becomes us then to sneer at men even if they are struggling and stumbling along the road, along which we have gone with such magnificent gestures and with such glorious results. There, again, is the objective problem. We have taught the Indians. We have educated the Indians. We have said to them: "British citizenship is not a miserable, pettifogging little thing." We have said to them: "British citizenship is one of those great and human qualities that makes a man who shares in it lift his head high because he believes he is a British citizen." You cannot have it both ways. That is at the root of the whole trouble. My hon. Friend, the Member for Sevenoaks interjected a remark a few moments ago, "Why could not we go together?" They have gone together. And if you say to them in Kenya, "You must accept a status lower than the white British citizen," they say, "No, we are British citizens." British citizenship is such a magnificent thing that there should be—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman is not entitled on this Vote to go into the question of Kenya. That will come on the Colonial Vote.
Yes, I admit that that is so, Mr. Hope, but the whole point is this—as the Noble Lord knows perfectly well—that this is one reason why there is so much political discontent. I am not discussing this matter from the Kenya point of view, but from the Indian point of view. If I may say so, with proper respect, I think that that is really in order when we are discussing the state of public opinion in India at the present time, because there is probably no evil influence of such a malign character as this. There are one or two evils, but this is certainly one of the 767 most important influences in connection with these unhappy Indians just now. However, I will refrain from going further in that direction.
Just a word or two on the Salt Tax—because I must give the Noble Lord a full share of time in order that he may reply. The history of the Salt Tax is a very simple one. Nobody challenges the power of the Viceroy to issue the certificate. The Viceroy, as a matter of fact, is instructed—that is how I read the Statute—to use the power if he is convinced that the interests of India demand it. That is what has happened. Nobody doubts for a moment that the Governor-General made up his mind, after full consideration, that the interests of India did require him to issue a certificate. Surely we can question his judgment, from our knowledge of India, from our knowledge of what went before, and from our knowledge of what has happened since! That is all we are doing, and that is an essential part of the responsibility of this House. In 1922 the Government admitted that the Salt Tax was a bad tax, and that it should only be resorted to in the very last extremity. There is no single person—I appeal with perfect confidence to my hon. Friend opposite, the Member for Sevenoaks, who knows the question of the tax so thoroughly—there is no single person in this House but will admit that the Salt Tax has got a bad reputation and ought never to be touched except under the most pressing circumstances.
I do not think there is any dispute on either side about that. It is not so much financial as political, and that is the whole point. I do not believe that it was required as a financial expedient. It is true that we have been having deficits on the Indian Budget, but last year, too, was less than it was the year before, and this year it is about 2½ crores. There is this year every prospect of a good harvest and reviving trade, and there is every appearance of a substantial increase in the yield of Indian taxation. What is more, there is a very strong opinion held by those who claim to understand this problem that the Indian income has been under-estimated in the Budget, and those who claim to be able to interpret the evolution of Indian financial affairs say that without doubling the Salt Tax and leaving it at its old 768 standard the deficit next year would have been absolutely wiped out.
Indian credit was steadily recovering itself without doubling the Salt Tax. The whole trend of Indian credit since the War, after the first break of the War, has been to recover itself, and the last loan floated in the London market was floated very advantageously. What has really influenced Indian credit more than anything else is the pledge of great economies which are to be practised in India, and it is claimed that these would have balanced the Budget as soon as there was a full annual yield from those economies. On this financial problem the Governor-General has made a plain political statement to the effect that the financial value of the Salt Tax is very small, but the political significance of the certificate issued in relation to the Salt Tax is enormously large. That is just our case against the Viceroy, and I should like to ask one very specific question upon that point. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. C. Roberts) has referred to a dispatch written by Lord Reading, the penultimate sentence of which is as follows:Finally, I wish to remind your Lordships that my action merely imposes an enhancement of the tax until the 31st March, 1924, when the matter must again come before the Legislature. It will then have had a year's experience of the operation of the tax, and it will be in a position to determine, in view of the condition of the country, and having regard to our obligations to the Provinces, to vote for its retention.The question I want to put is: What does that mean? Is it that the Assembly can merely vote for or against the retention? If so, it means nothing at all. The Assembly has a right, as this House has, to vote for or against an increased duty. If it means that it is no pledge at all; or does it mean that if the Assembly next year, after its experience of the double Salt Tax, still votes against the double Salt Tax and in favour of a return to the standard Salt Tax of last year, Lord Reading will again issue a certificate for the Finance Act? I think that question can and should be definitely answered. If it is the latter, I am prepared to accept the situation; if not, then it will be necessary to show that we disagree with it.
I need only mention the terribly evil effects that sort of action has upon the 769 constitutional party in Indian politics. My own view is this: that it is our duty, that it is the Governor-General's duty, to stand through thick and thin by these courageous men who upheld constitutional practice in India in the face of such terrible difficulties. I do not care whether I agree with them or not. Their courage has been so fine, their example has been so magnificent, that anything I can I will do to give them heart to go on with the fight. It is a most deplorable thing that we have enormously weakened them in the Assembly. We have weakened the effects of the reforms. We have loaded the dice against them in the coming election by issuing this certificate. A certificate on anything is bad enough, but one on the Salt Tax is worse. An hon. Member remarked that the Salt Tax has been higher in days gone by. Of course it has. Do hon. Members remember any Indian controversy that has been dissociated from the Salt Tax? There never has been; there never will be. It has always been a great factor with Indian politics. I regret that through no fault of my own I have had to curtail the time left to the Noble Lord in which to reply to the various criticisms. I do appeal to him to go on courageously with these reforms. Any attempt to turn back will compel us to face far more difficult and far more dangerous conditions than will a courageous handling of the situation with wisdom, restraint and enlightenment.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Everyone on both sides of the Committee, however little they may agree with the arguments that have been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition, will recognise both his great interest and his sincerity in this matter, and I make no complaint of the fact, because it is, after all, not the hon. Gentleman's fault, that I have only a comparatively short time in which to answer the points that have been put to me, especially as I took up such an abnormal period of the Committee's proceedings on the previous occasion. In that connection, I should like, if I may, to thank those hon. Gentlemen in the Committee, including Members of all parties, who have been good enough to pay a tribute to what I said on that occasion. The House of Commons is always very generous to its Members, and especially, perhaps, to those who, in former days, have been among its more 770 unruly children. I do appreciate those tributes, especially in view of the length of my speech.
The Leader of the Opposition has narrowed down the case that I have to answer as regards the Salt Tax to a comparatively small compass. As I understood his argument, it was that no one challenges the power of the Viceroy to do what he did do; but he went on to say that, while no one challenges that, those hon. Gentlemen who sit on that side of the Committee did question his judgment in what he had done. The hon. Gentleman then went on to say that they questioned it both from the point of view of our knowledge of what went before and from the point of view of our knowledge of what has happened since. I am quite prepared, in the few minutes which I intend to give to this question, to answer the case which the hon. Gentleman has put on those two grounds—our knowledge of what went before, and our knowledge of what has happened since. In dealing with the first of these two grounds, the hon. Gentleman made a point of the fact that, on the occasion of the Budget Debates in the Assembly last year, a member of the Indian Government had described the tax as a bad one. I took the opportunity of looking up his words while the hon. Gentleman was speaking, and what, in effect, was said by this member of the Government of India was that, while the tax was theoretically a bad one, that was all that could be said against it, for he was utterly unable to agree that it was going to be any real hardship to the very poor. Those were the words used by that member of the Indian Government in deprecation of the enhancement of the Salt Tax. That was what happened last year.
The situation can really be explained in a word. The Government of India found themselves faced once again with a Budget that was not balanced. They explored, to use a much overworked phrase, every possible avenue of enhanced taxation. An hon. Gentleman below the Gangway opposite suggested that the Income Tax might be increased. I am not privy to the consultations that went on, but I imagine that the Members of the Government of India, and the unofficial Members of the Assembly, discussed that matter during the two days of the consultations, and no one knows better than 771 my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Simpson), to whose speech, if he will allow me to say so, I listened with much interest, the special conditions in India in regard to collection which make it exceedingly difficult to carry out any large enhancement of the Income Tax. At any rate, the point is that the unofficial Members of the Assembly were fully consulted as to possible alternatives, and no arrangement was arrived at.
The Government was faced once again with a Budget deficit. I am very glad to hear the tributes that have been paid on both sides of the Committee to the improved conditions in India, due to better crops and better financial conditions generally, but those alone would not have produced a balanced Budget without increased taxation. Surely, there is no one on either side of the Committee, except a very few, who would say that any Government, placed as the Government of India was, should go on for another year allowing a Budget deficit to exist when there was so clear an opportunity of producing a balance. That is the answer to that point, and, if ever there was a reason for using powers, that was the reason. I want to say one word as to the use of the powers. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. C. Roberts), who, I think, cannot be a very close student of what has happened in the Assembly of India since the inauguration of the reforms, said that I had suggested in my speech that this power was the sort of power that should be used on every occasion when the Government in this House take the Whips off. I never said anything of the sort. The hon. Gentleman's words would lead a more uninstructed Member of the Committee to suppose that the Government of India, on every occasion on which they met with any opposition, made use of this reserve power.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am very glad he did not mean that, because that was the effect of his words. May I tell the Committee what the real truth is. The Government of India have constantly met with defeat in the Assembly. They met with defeat on the Budget last year, and they gave way. There is no question of making use of this power on ordinary 772 occasions, but they thought it right to use it on this very exceptional occasion. I think the case of hon. Members opposite would be greatly strengthened if it were the first occasion on which the Government of India, faced by an Assembly hostile to a financial proposal which they put forward, had used their powers. That is not the case. They have given way on financial proposals before.
§ Earl WINTERTON
They gave way last year on the Salt Tax. The only reason they use the power this year is that they believe, with the knowledge that only a Goverment can have, that it is absolutely essential for the financial stability of India that they should have a balanced Budget, and they could only do that by certifying this tax. The Leader of the Opposition says, "Let us judge the matter from our knowledge of what has occurred since." No one is more pleased to do it than I am. We were told by the croakers in India and in this country that if the Salt Tax was enhanced, and particularly if it were certified by the Viceroy, there would be a terrible condition of agitation in every village in India. The events proved the exact opposite. There has been, as far as I know, no agitation anywhere. The people have accepted the enhanced tax. Whereas the cost of living in India has gone down this year compared with two years ago something like 10 rupees a month, the total enhanced cost for a family as the result of putting on this tax is one rupee a year. Is anyone going to say under these circumstances it is going to press heavily upon the public? I quite agree if there had been serious agitation in the villages and if there had been refusal to pay the tax hon. Gentlemen opposite might have had a certain amount of justice on their side when they say, "Let us consider what has happened since."
The hon. Gentleman, with the most obvious sincerity, said he was appalled at the political effect the certification of the tax would have and he and others paid a tribute, which I was very glad to have paid, to the present system of administration under the Act of 1919. With the exception of the hon. Member for North Battersea (Mr. Saklatvala) who, I understand is not an official Member of the 773 party opposite, every member of the party has at any rate paid lip service to that system. I understood the Leader of the Opposition said he was afraid it would have the most appalling results upon the position of the reforms in India and especially upon the position of the members of the Assembly. I take a different view. I think a few months or even weeks hence, considered in its proper perspective, this action of the Viceroy will be seen to be not only justified under the circumstances, but to be a wise act and an act that really helps the cause of the reforms because it gave for the first time for three or four years a balanced Budget to India, thereby enormously enhancing her prestige and financial credit.
The hon. Member asked me whether the words he quoted from the despatch contained a pledge that the tax would be taken off at the end of the year. My answer is, No.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Exactly. I am asked whether in the despatch the words quoted contained the implication that the Viceroy had given a pledge that if at the time of the next Budget discussion in the Assembly the Assembly voted against the tax, the tax would be taken off. I can answer that plainly. I do not agree that there was any such pledge. What I take the words to mean is that the question will be considered in all its bearings, in the light of the position, financial and otherwise, in India at the time of the next Budget.
§ Mr. C. ROBERTS
This is very important. The Viceroy said that his action merely imposed an enhancement of the tax until the 31st March, 1924, and that the Assembly is to be in a position then to determine whether it will vote for its retention. How is it possible, when the Viceroy says that, that they should hereafter use the power?
§ Earl WINTERTON
He does not say that. He says that at the end of March—it is imposed for a year, as all taxes are—the tax will come up for review. What I understand his Excellency's meaning to be is that the question will then be considered in all its bearings. Does the hon. Gentleman really suggest that the Viceroy, or my Noble Friend the Secre- 774 tary of State, or myself, speaking on behalf of my Noble Friend, should give a pledge that the tax will be taken off in the next Budget?
I turn to the question which was asked me in regard to Kenya. As I said on the previous occasion when the Estimates were under review, it would be improper to make any statement when negotiations between the various parties are actually proceeding at the Colonial Office. In any case, an announcement, if and when a decision is reached, should properly be made by my Noble Friend, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, or the Under-Secretary. I hope that such an announcement may be possible—I am informed that it may be possible—before the Colonial Office Estimates are taken. It could not be made any sooner owing to the fact that before a final decision is reached by His Majesty's Government, my Noble Friend, the Secretary of State for India, will, naturally, wish to communicate with the Government of India.
One or two other questions were put to me which I did not answer on the previous occasion. One question was put by the hon. Member for Brightside (Mr. Ponsonby) on the subject of opium. India has carried out to the letter The Hague Convention on opium, to which she was a party. The production of opium in India has been reduced from 613,000 acres in 1905–6, to 117,000 acres in 1921–22, and the revenue has gone down to 3 per cent. The hon. Member suggested that India, alone of the civilised countries, took up an outrageous attitude at the recent Convention at Geneva. On the contrary, the attitude taken up by India, through its representative, was that it had strictly carried out The Hague Convention; that it was one of the few countries which was a large producer of opium which had done so; that it had reduced its production of opium enormously, that it was prepared to consider any reasonable Amendment that might be put forward, but was not prepared to accept in their entirety the resolutions put forward by the American delegation. I understand that the result of those discussions was that when the resolution which was eventually passed with reservation by India was passed the American delegates accepted that reservation.
The hon. Member for North Battersea and other hon. Members asked what has 775 been done to improve industrial conditions in India. I can only say that I believe that India has ratified more of the provision of various recommendations which have been passed by the International Labour Bureau than any other country. There has been an immense advance recently in industrial legislation in India. No one suggests that India yet occupies the standard of European countries, but I have no hesitation in saying that no Asiatic country in recent years has shown such a great advance in industrial legislation as India.
The question was asked whether the Royal Commission would take into consideration the position of the uncovenanted as well as of the covenanted civil servants. The answer is in the affirmative. My hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks asked a question which I think I answered before on the subject of the pensions of certain uncovenanted civil servants. I can only answer it as I did then. The whole question was carefully considered at the time. The uncovenanted civil servants in question were given the datum line of 1913, and the principle embodied in the decision taken in their case is a principle which is I believe of general application in the case of civil servants in this country. My Noble Friend decided, after careful consideration, that no alteration could be made, and having myself carefully looked into the circumstances on behalf of the Secretary of State, I do not think that, having regard to the circumstances, the grievance of these people is one on which action would be justified or possible.
The hon. and gallant Member for Bilston (Lieut.-Colonel Howard-Bury), the hon. Member for Taunton, and others referred to the Indianisation of the Indian Army. The hon. Member for Taunton, as I understood him, objected to the statement, which he said was made frequently, that the British officer was necessarily in all cases superior to the Indian. I wish to say, on behalf of the Secretary of State, that as between the British officer and the Indian officer we do not admit any racial test. The only test which we admit—obviously the proper test, especially after the experience of the War—is the test of ability. In every case in which Indian 776 officers can show that they have the same high standard of ability as that which is possessed by British officers they will have just as much opportunity as those officers in their career. The hon. Member for Taunton said that the criterion of the size of the British Army is that it should be sufficient to provide for the internal security of India and for the reasonable stiffening of the Indian Army in external defence. That is the only criterion which has ever been applied. I think you want to judge the merits of the new system—of the new Constitution—not by vague theories, not by political ideas, derived from this book or that, but by analysing that system in practice. What does that analysis mean? It means that there has been an unexampled opportunity given to Indians, if they will avail themselves of it, as many are doing, to take an honourable and responsible part in the government of their own country. Surely, there is no one on either side of the Committee who would suggest that that is a bad thing. On the other hand, surely it is the most dangerous of delusions to suppose that in a country with the size, the diversities of race and religions, and the previous history of India you would hasten the process of constitutional development by ignoring the safeguards that have been laid down.
That is the answer to the hon. Member for Taunton, who made a most interesting speech. I often regret that in this House, on a subject of interest like India, there is only a small assembly of hon. Members, while, when some small cat-and-dog Debate about some municipal tramway is in progress, hon. Members crowd down to the House. The hon. Member for Taunton made a most interesting speech, and attacked the system of dyarchy. I have not the time or opportunity to reply to him, but my answer is generally contained in those words. If the hon. Member wishes, as I understand he does, in common with most people, to see Indians gradually training themselves for the government of their own country, I know of no other system which could have done it except that system at present in operation At any rate, if there were an alternative system, I have not seen one which, after examination, would bear the light of day as well as this system. 777 I do not know whether there is going to be a Division to-night, but if there is, I ask the Committee to register, by their votes, the conviction that both His Majesty's Government and the Government of India are fulfilling, loyally and fully, their obligations to India and to Parliament, as laid down in the Government of India Act, and I have heard nothing in the Debate to alter my opinion on that point. They are endeavouring to keep in the middle of the path; they are resisting great pressure, or some pressure, at any rate, to push them to one side or the other, and the pressure comes not merely from this country but from India as well. It is a task of great difficulty; one, I think, to test the qualities of statesmanship; it requires infinite patience and infinite forbearance, as well as sustained courage and willingness to act promptly in an emergency.
I read the other day, in the "Life of M. Gambetta," a very fine phrase by the author of that life, M. Deschanel—I had never come across it beforeHistory sees only the wide view, and the great high road.I believe that history will see, in the system under which India is governed to-day, the greatest effort that has ever been made in this Empire to effect real
§ and worthy racial co-operation. I think it is the greatest effort we have ever made. It may seem dangerous to some hon. Members on this side of the Committee; it may seem inadequate to some hon. Members on the other side of the Committee. But, if it succeeds, it will be yet another tribute to the capacity of the British Empire to mould its internal composition so as to suit the needs of each succeeding generation—a task in which we have been more successful than any other Empire. Those who wish, for whatever reason, to upset the system in its initial stages, are taking a very heavy responsibility on themselves, and I hope, if we go to a Division to-night, that the Committee will register, by an overwhelming vote, its support of the Government in carrying out this difficult task.
That a sum, not exceeding £80,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1924, for a Contribution towards the Cost of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for India in Council, including a Grant-in-Aid.
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 213; Noes, 74.779
|Division No. 268.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Ford, Patrick Johnston|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Foreman, Sir Henry|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Forestier-Walker, L.|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Clarry, Reginald George||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Clayton, G. C.||Fraser, Major Sir Keith|
|Apsley, Lord||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Sir Martin||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Furness, G. J.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Galbraith, J. F. W.|
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover)||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Cope, Major William||Garland, C. S.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Gates, Percy|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.|
|Banks, Mitchell||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Goff, Sir R. Park|
|Barlow, Rt. Hon. Sir Montague||Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)||Gould, James C.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Greenwood, William (Stockport)|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)|
|Becker, Harry||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Grigg, Sir Edward|
|Berry, Sir George||Davies, David (Montgomery)||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.|
|Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Gwynne, Rupert S.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Dixon, Capt. H. (Belfast, E.)||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Halstead, Major D.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Ellis, R. G.||Harrison, F. C.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Bruford, R.||Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)|
|Bruton, Sir James||Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Evans, Ernest (Cardigan)||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Herbert, Col. Hon. A. (Yeovil)|
|Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Hewett, Sir J. P.|
|Butler, J. R. M. (Cambridge Univ.)||Fawkes, Major F. H.||Hilder, Lieut.-Colonel Frank|
|Button, H. S.||Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.||Hiley, Sir Ernest|
|Cadogan, Major Edward||Flanagan, W. H.||Hinds, John|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Singleton, J. E.|
|Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Skelton, A. N.|
|Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Hood, Sir Joseph||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Spencer-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Hopkins, John W. W.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Stewart Gershom (Wirral)|
|Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)||Paget, T. G.||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Parker, Owen (Kettering)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Hudson, Capt. A.||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Hume, G. H.||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Hutchison, G. A. C. (Midlothian, N.)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Thomas, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Hutchison, Sir R. (Kirkcaldy)||Pielou, D. P.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Raeburn, Sir William H.||Tubbs, S. W.|
|Jephcott, A. R.||Rankin, Captain James Stuart||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Johnson, Sir L. (Waithamstow, E.)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Sir William||Remer, J. R.||Waring, Major Walter|
|Kenyon, Barnet||Rentoul, G. S.||Warner, Sir T. Courtenay T.|
|King, Captain Henry Douglas||Reynolds, W. G. W.||Watson, Capt. J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Wells, S. R.|
|Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Robertson-Despencer, Major (Islgtn, W.)||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir P.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretford)||White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Lort-Williams, J.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Whitla, Sir William|
|Lumley, L. R.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Russell, William (Bolton)||Winterton, Earl|
|Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney||Wise, Frederick|
|Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Manville, Edward||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.||Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Margesson, H. D. R.||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Shakespeare, G. H.||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Molloy, Major L. G. S.||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Moreing, Captain Algernon H.||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Nall, Major Joseph||Shipwright, Captain D.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Sinclair, Sir A.||Gibbs.|
|Newson, Sir Percy Wilson|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Richards, R.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hardie, George D.||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)|
|Attlee, C. R.||Hayes, John Henry (Edge Hill)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Barnes, A.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (N'castle, E.)||Saklatvala, S.|
|Batey, Joseph||Hodge, Lieut.-Colonel J. P. (Preston)||Salter, Dr. A.|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Broad, F. A.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Snell, Harry|
|Brotherton, J.||Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)||Sullivan, J.|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Trevelyan, C. P.|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Lansbury, George||Warne, G. H.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawson, John James||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Leach, W.||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Collison, Levi||Lowth, T.||Webb, Sidney|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)||Weir, L. M.|
|Duffy, T. Gavan||M'Entee, V. L.||Welsh, J. C.|
|Duncan, C.||Middleton, G.||Westwood, J.|
|Dunnico, H.||Murnin, H.||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Ede, James Chuter||Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Newbold, J. T. W.||Wright, W.|
|Gosling, Harry||O'Grady, Captain James||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Greenall, T.||Oliver, George Harold|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Ponsonby, Arthur||Mr. Ammon and Mr. Morgan|
|Groves, T.||Potts, John S.||Jones.|
§ Resolution to be Reported To-morrow; Committee to sit again To-morrow.